One of the lessons to be drawn from the past three decades of EH&S regulatory experience around the world is that societies expect more of an environmental regulatory system than protection of the environment, more of an occupational health and safety system than protection of workers and the community. To be sure, a successful EH&S system must meet societal expectations for environmental and occupational protection; but typically it must do so in ways that support other societal goals.
Thus it is no coincidence that criticism of EH&S regulatory policy within the OECD is just as likely to be about the unintended economic and social consequences of regulation, such as constraining impacts on technological innovation or the failure to take account of local economic circumstances, as about the effectiveness of environmental and occupational protection measures. And within many developing economies weak enforcement of EH&S regulation often reflects fears that improvements in environmental performance will only occur at the cost of reduced economic competitiveness and static socioeconomic welfare. The ideal regulatory approach for many policy makers would yield improvements in both environmental and socioeconomic performance, and it is the tantalizing prospect of such ‘‘win-win’’ opportunities that dominates much of the public discourse on regulation and on ‘‘greening of industry.’’ As a baseline, we have proposed this definition of success: an EH&S system succeeds if it advances EH&S objectives without imposing unreasonable social and economic cost, and does so in ways that enhance rather than undermine the pursuit of other societal goals.
In general it is fair to say that much existing regulatory practice is not calibrated to this optimal performance goal. Whether by legal mandate,