The drivers of firms’ compliance to environmental regulations: the case of India

Regulatory compliance is key in the fight against climate change and other environmental challenges. But regulatory agencies, especially in developing countries, are often hampered by their capacity to monitor and enforce standards and regulations against recalcitrant firms. There is now a big push toward self-reporting whereby the firms monitor and report on their compliance levels vis-a-vis the standards. This is seen as a way around the costs that agencies must incur if they were to scale up their inspections. In this paper, extensive firm-level data from India are used to compare the compliance level of firms when they are inspected by agencies versus the times when they self-report. Other factors that may determine regulatory compliance, such as age, size, sector, location, and so forth, are also examined. The results indicate that compliance rates are higher in the case of self-reporting than in the case of inspection, suggesting that there is a need to reform the self-report mechanism. Newer and privately owned firms are more compliant. There are also differences between complying with air and water pollution. Finally, the paper examines whether environmental monitoring through inspections leads to improvement in compliance levels, to assess the effectiveness of the regulations and inspections. The findings suggest that the increase in compliance is limited to a few industries.