Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Can Regulatory Shaming Save the Planet?

Sharon Yadin

Imagine if the government ranked banks according to their investments in the oil and gas industries or rated and labelled food and clothing companies based on their poor carbon footprint. Would you react to this type of “naming and shaming” by avoiding companies that contribute to global warming? Surveys suggest yes.

This is the concept of “regulatory shaming.” It involves publishing adverse regulatory information about corporate activities to influence their behaviour. The underlying premise is that stakeholders––ranging from consumers, investors, employees, and the public at large––can have, in some cases, a more substantial impact on corporate conduct than traditional rulemaking or penalties.

Regulatory climate shaming, the main framework developed in Fighting Climate Change Through Shaming, has the potential to leverage companies’ social licenses rather than relying solely on their legal licenses to curb global warming. The idea is to nudge companies to not only comply with climate law and regulation but also to go “beyond compliance” and adopt voluntary climate-friendly corporate practices, fostering a more sustainable future.

Over the past few years, my research has delved into “regulatory shaming.” In particular, I have been looking at fields closely related to climate, such as environmental protection and public health. I aimed to develop a descriptive and normative regulatory shaming theory anchored in public law theory and literature on soft regulatory approaches. This book represents the culmination of my efforts, synthesizing insights gleaned from prior studies and applying them to the context of climate change. I wrote it to elucidate the intricate interplay between shaming, regulation, and the climate crisis. Namely, I sought to probe whether the efficacy of shaming, demonstrated in other regulated domains, could be harnessed to address this pressing global challenge. This was an especially relevant task given the limited impact that litigation, conventional regulation, international agreements, and legislation have thus far had in mitigating climate change. Just recently, news broke that March 2024 marked the 10th consecutive month of breaking global temperature records. Global leaders are still contemplating policy avenues for tackling this serious problem.

This book’s heart is an in-depth yet concise exploration of the following thought-provoking questions: Should we use shaming as a climate policy tool? What if we used innovative regulatory instruments instead of formal legal frameworks? What if we harnessed public opinion, communication-based instruments, and corporate reputational sensitivities instead of relying on traditional regulatory and legal approaches? Could regulation by shaming deter firms more effectively than other policies? And is it a fair and just approach? What are its possible limitations?

Ultimately, this book proposes that regulatory climate shaming is a suitable, just, and necessary approach that should be utilized in addition to more traditional policy strategies. In my analysis, I consider the public interest, the urgency of the situation, corporate obstruction practices like climate denial and climate washing, previous studies on regulatory shaming and environmental disclosure, and the public’s willingness to respond to such information. I also adopt a comparative approach, studying the extant legal and regulatory frameworks of climate shaming in EU countries, the US, the UK, and Israel. This study enabled me to develop a typology of regulatory climate shaming tactics, as well as a normative, policy-oriented theory.

While a legal scholar, I believe the book can appeal to scholars of diverse fields, including public policy, regulation, economics, and environmental studies. As the book offers not only theory but also policy recommendations, it can appeal to anyone interested in climate law and policy and climate action from practical perspectives. Indeed, there is much more to explore from empirical, policy, and theoretical perspectives. This book aims to open rather than end the discussion on finding new innovative ways in the law and regulation realms to fight climate change, inviting all interested parties to contribute to the dialogue.

Fighting Climate Change through Shaming by Sharon Yadin

About The Author

Sharon Yadin

Dr. Sharon Yadin is a Senior Lecturer of Law and Regulation at the Yezreel Valley College School of Public Administration and Public Policy and a research fellow at the Minerva Cen...

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