Commentary: Voluntary Innovations versus Enforceable Rights

Date01 March 2014
Published date01 March 2014
AuthorSuzanne Y. Mattei
244 Public Administration Review • March | April 2014
Suzanne Y. Mattei has 30 years of
experience in environmental law and policy.
Prior to her current role as head of a health
consumer rights organization, she served
as regional director for the New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation.
In her previous positions in government and
in nonprof‌i t organizations, she participated
in multiple permit proceedings, rulemak-
ings, and legislative hearings, including
testifying by invitation before Congress
regarding the health impacts of Ground
Zero contamination on 9/11 responders.
The analysis presented in “Voluntary
Regulations and Innovation:  e Case of
ISO 14001” by Sijeong Lim and Aseem
Prakash supports the premise that voluntary par-
ticipation in ISO 14001 promotes technological
innovation.  e authors argue less successfully that
requiring companies to install a particular type of
pollution control technology hinders them from
researching and f‌i nding ways to curb pollution
through process changes or new technologies, and
they do not address whether the public would be
better protected under enforceable approaches to
environmental protection. Placing such a policy
discussion in a broader context that analyzes the
existing f‌l exibility within current regulatory schemes,
the rights of the public, and the practical challenges
faced by regulatory agencies, would be a helpful next
step for the authors’ inquiry.
ISO 14001 is a valuable tool. It requires adoption
of management policies and specif‌i c environmental
Suzanne Y. Mattei
New Yorkers for Patient & Family Empowerment, Inc.
targets, with third-party auditing to conf‌i rm achieve-
ment of objectives.  e positive reinforcement of ISO
14001 accreditation and the potential “loss of face”
that would occur if the facility lost that status moti-
vate and incentivize commitment to these goals.  e
authors emphasize that third-party monitoring and
reporting are key to the success of ISO 14001.  is is
consistent with the premise that “what gets measured
gets addressed.”
e article of‌f ers interesting evidence that the volun-
tary ISO 14001 approach promotes innovation.  e
study examines the performance of 79 countries, using
14 years of data, to correlate voluntary ISO 14001 par-
ticipation with environmental patent applications.  e
study controls for potentially confounding factors such
as the level of economic development, the size of the
economy, and political and institutional factors that
can inf‌l uence innovation.  e analysis concludes that
those who participated in ISO 14001 had an increased
number of environmental patent applications.
Voluntary Innovations versus Enforceable Rights

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