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Environmental Policy Meaning and Considerations

Environmental policymakers face critical and complex questions. This report is designed to help decision-makers develop and advise on environmental policy.

An Executive Guide for Decision Makers

Environmental policies have sweeping implications for business, citizens and the environment. Building policy is a complex process and there are numerous opportunities for things to go well – or poorly. Even policies generally viewed as successes involve trade-offs.

Given this complexity, policy-makers face critical questions: how effective are different environmental policy instruments in achieving their objectives? How efficient are these instruments?

Creating Efficient, Effective Environmental Policy

NBS reviewed and synthesized best-in-class research based on advice from the Leadership Council to create this executive report: Building Effective Environmental Policy: A Guide for Decision-Makers analyzes and distills the learnings from 204 academic articles and government reports to help policy-makers in government and industry create environmental policy that:

  • Achieves its environmental goals

  • Is cost effective

  • Is relevant to those affected by these policies

  • Demonstrates accountability to the public (where applicable)

What is Environmental Policy?

Environmental policy can be enacted by any public or private institution as laws, regulations, or other policy mechanisms relating to human activities’ effects on the environment. These policies shape the ways humans and their operations impact the environment and meet sustainability targets. Building policy is a complex process with the potential for things to go well – or poorly.

3 Tools for Better Policy

This executive report begins by highlighting best practices in environmental policy. It then offers three key tools to help you create better policy:

The Environmental Policy Framework

The framework outlines the range of factors that influence the policy process and highlights some considerations before you begin advocating for, or creating, new policy.

5-Step Decision-Tree to Choose Your Instrument

This tool provides a five-step decision-tree, including the questions you should ask at various stages of the policy process to ensure you identify the best policy instrument.

Comparison of Policy Instruments

This tool describes key environmental policy instruments in low carbon and water management, detailing when each works best and providing real-world examples of where each has been used.

This report presents a solid framework, based on years of research, for building more effective and efficient environmental policy. Read the full systematic review for a more detailed overview of the literature.

Who Should Read the Report?

This report is designed to:

  • Guide and advise decision-makers in government and industry develop and advise on environmental policy.

  • Help policy-makers working on environmental issues understand the range of policy instruments available to them and when each is most effective.

  • Provide suggestions for businesses on how they can constructively feed into the process at various stages.

The report is an extension of the Network for Business Sustainability’s systematic review of the body of research on building effective environmental policy, conducted by researchers at Carleton University. Synthesizing data from more than 200 studies, the systematic review presents a comprehensive compilation of high-quality knowledge on this topic.

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