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When and Why Does It Pay To Be Green?

  • Stefan Ambec
  • Paul Lanoie

The conventional wisdom about environmental protection is that it comes at an additional cost on firms imposed by the government, which may erode their global competitiveness. However, during the last decade, this paradigm has been challenged by a number of analysts. In particular, Porter (Porter, 1991; Porter and van der Linde, 1995) argues that pollution is often associated with a waste of resources (material, energy, etc.), and that more stringent environmental policies can stimulate innovations that may compensate for the costs of complying with these policies. This is known as the Porter hypothesis. In fact, there are many ways through which improving the environmental performance of a company can lead to a better economic or financial performance, and not necessarily to an increase in cost. To be systematic, it is important to look at both sides of the balance sheet. First, a better environmental performance can lead to an increase in revenues through the following channels: i) a better access to certain markets; ii) the possibility to differentiate products and iii) the possibility to sell pollution-control technology. Second, a better environmental performance can lead to cost reductions in the following categories: iv) regulatory cost; v) cost of material, energy and services (this refers mainly to the Porter hypothesis); vi) cost of capital, and vii) cost of labour. Although these different possibilities have been identified from a conceptual or theoretical point of view for some time (Reinhardt, 2000; Lankoski, 2000, 2006), to our knowledge, there was no systematic effort to provide empirical evidences supporting the existence of these opportunities and assessing their magnitude. This is the objective of this paper. For each of the seven possibilities identified above [i) through vii)], we present the mechanisms involved, a systematic view of the empirical evidence available, and a discussion of the gaps in the empirical literature. The objective of the paper is not to show that a reduction of pollution is always accompanied by a better financial performance, it is rather to argue that the expenses incurred to reduce pollution can sometime be partly or completely compensated by gains made elsewhere. Through a systematic examination of all the possibilities, we also want to identify the circumstances most likely to lead to a win-win situation, i.e., better environmental and financial performance. La vision traditionnelle au sujet de la réglementation de l'environnement est qu'elle représente un coût additionnel pour des firmes, ce qui peut éroder leur compétitivité globale. Cependant, pendant la dernière décennie, ce paradigme a été remis en cause par un certain nombre d'analystes. En particulier, Porter (Porter, 1991, Porter et van der Linde, 1995) argue du fait que la pollution est souvent associée à un gaspillage des ressources (matériel, énergie, etc.), et que des politiques environnementales plus strictes peuvent stimuler les innovations, ce qui peut compenser les coûts entraînés par ces politiques. Ceci est connu comme l'hypothèse de Porter. En fait, il existe plusieurs raisons pour lesquelles l'amélioration de la performance environnementale d'une firme peut s'accompagner d'une meilleure performance économique ou financière, et pas nécessairement d'une augmentation de coût. Pour être systématique, il est important de regarder les deux côtés de l'état des produits et des charges. Tout d'abord, une meilleure performance environnementale peut mener à une augmentation des revenus par les canaux suivants : i) un meilleur accès à certains marchés, ii) la possibilité de différencier des produits et iii) la possibilité de vendre la technologie de dépollution. En second lieu, une meilleure performance environnementale peut mener à des réductions de coûts dans les catégories suivantes : iv) coût réglementaire, v) coût en ressources, énergie et services (ceci se réfère principalement à l'hypothèse de Porter), vi) coût en capitaux, et vii) coût du travail. Bien que ces différentes possibilités aient été identifiées d'un point de vue conceptuel ou théorique depuis un certain temps (Reinhardt, 2000 ; Lankoski, 2000, 2006), à notre connaissance, aucun effort systématique n'a été fait pour fournir des évidences empiriques soutenant l'existence de ces opportunités et évaluant leur importance. C'est l'objectif de cet article. Pour chacune des sept possibilités identifiées ci-dessus [de i) à vii)], nous présentons les mécanismes impliqués, une description des évidences empiriques disponibles, et une discussion des lacunes de la littérature empirique. L'objectif du texte n'est pas de prouver qu'une réduction de pollution est toujours accompagnée d'une meilleure performance financière, il est plutôt de montrer que les coûts encourus pour réduire la pollution peuvent parfois être compensés, en partie ou complètement, par des gains effectués ailleurs. Par un examen systématique de toutes possibilités, nous voulons également identifier les circonstances pouvant mener à une situation « gagnant-gagnant », c'est-à-dire, une meilleure performance environnementale et financière.

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Paper provided by CIRANO in its series CIRANO Working Papers with number 2007s-20.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: 01 Sep 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2007s-20
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