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Colección: INTERAMER
Número: 69
Año: 2000
Autor: Ramón López and Juan Carlos Jordán, Editors
Título: Sustainable Development in Latin America: Financing and Policies Working in Synergy

Alternative Approaches To Enforcement: Voluntary Compliance

Partly to address the lack of public resources available for environmental monitoring and enforcement, more attention is being paid to the development of strategies that would focus on activities to prevent environmental violations. These strategies are directed to the regulated community itself with the objective of making potential polluters more responsible for and responsive to environmental laws and regulations, capitalizing on other trends such as increased corporate environmental management (strongly influenced by the development of the recent ISO 14,000 standards) and recognition that preventing pollution has significant advantages over end-of-pipe measures (Stahl, 1994). Several programs are being developed to promote voluntary compliance by the regulated community: environmental auditing, outreach and incentive programs, certification programs, environmental education, and public-disclosure requirements.

At a minimum, the objective of a voluntary compliance program is to generate public awareness as a means of bringing public pressure on the violator to comply. Work at the World Bank has indicated that merely supplying the public with better information about violations may be a surprisingly effective means of encouraging compliance, especially when more conventional approaches are not available (World Bank, 1997). Public information and disclosure programs also exist in Latin America. In São Paulo, for example, air-quality levels are shown on automatic digital displays placed in strategic points of the city, together with a list of industries found to be in compliance with the law (IDB, 1996).

Box 6

More elaborate programs promote the use of self-monitoring and reporting systems. Mainly to compensate for the lack of public resources, it has been suggested that the use of such programs in Latin America be increased (IDB, 1996). Brazil has some experience with self- monitoring and reporting, although it is said that they are rarely audited or checked. In Minas Gerais, monitoring activities (sampling and analysis) are performed by private laboratories and research centers. In Belo Horizonte, air quality is monitored by an automatic network implemented by PETROBRAS, the Brazilian oil company, as part of permit requirements (IDB, 1996).

Probably the most advanced programs of voluntary compliance are related to environmental auditing. In this respect, Mexico has undoubtedly taken the lead in Latin America. PROFEPA started an ambitious voluntary environmental audit program in 1992 to promote self-regulation. PROFEPA determines the terms of reference of the audit, supervises the work, and supervises compliance with the agreed-upon actions. It also regularly consults industry representatives about possible changes to the program. A company that has entered the program is exempt from the normal inspection activities carried out by PROFEPA unless a public complaint has been issued. The audit process consists basically of three stages: planning, assessment, and post-audit activities. The audit results in an action plan that is included in the Environmental Compliance Agreement to be signed by PROFEPA and the company concerned. From June 1992 to July 1997, 775 environmental audits of companies were conducted (Calderon Bartheneuf, 1997).