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Why Do Corporations Obey Environmental Law? Assessing Punitive and Cooperative Strategies of Corporate Crime Control, Final Technical Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2007
216 pages
This study compared the effectiveness of formal legal sanctions and regulatory persuasion in dealing with companies that fail to comply with environmental law.
Analysis of company-level data found little evidence of a deterrent effect for either punitive or cooperative intervention strategies. Firms with the worst environmental records were inspected and sanctioned more often, with little effect on company reoffending. Larger companies (those with more employees) and firms that owned more facilities were inspected more often. Inspectors adopted both cooperative and punitive strategies as they interacted with regulated companies. Punitive strategies for corporate crime control regarding environmental offenses emphasize the use of formal legal sanctions in order to deter current and future offenders. Cooperative crime control strategies emphasize the use of regulatory persuasion in order to facilitate and enhance legal compliance. The latter strategies emphasize prosocial norms, informal sanction threats, and intraorganizational control in order to motivate firm compliance. Facility ownership was positively associated with more severe sanctions. More profitable companies had better environmental records. Formal legal sanctions and compliance strategies that built on ethical evaluations of managers and effective internal compliance systems had a substantial effect on managerial decisionmaking. Prosocial environmental actions by managers, such as responsiveness to terrorism threats and a strategy of "over-compliance" were more likely when there was shared agreement and consistent communication within the company about environmental goals. The study used a triangulated research strategy that incorporated interviews with environmental inspectors, secondary data analysis, and a vignette survey designed to provide information on the relative merits of strategies that targeted companies that had failed to comply with environmental regulation, specifically, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System as authorized by the Clean Water Act. 41 tables, 65 references, and appended details on research methodology

Date Published: January 1, 2007