Regulators frustrated that laws and fines often fail to force companies to cut pollution are developing new approaches that tap the power of public opinion and consumer choice to clean up the environment. The approach combines threats to embarrass companies that refuse to clean up, with public praise for those who do.
In many industrial countries, governments routinely collect factory emissions data and make it available to the public. This data can be used to rank factories and actively disseminate the names and "performance ranking" of companies as the core of a pollution control strategy.
In June 1995 the Indonesian government publicly launched the Program for Pollution Control, Evaluation and Rating, also known as PROPER. Using a sophisticated computerized model that takes into account dangers posed by each pollutant, they collapsed information on each factory into a single number and ranked the companies into five possible categories: gold for excellent, green for very good, blue for adequate, red for violators of environmental standards, and black for the worst polluters. The names of the companies were not released. Instead the government announced that 115 of them were ranked as red, and six were ranked as black. Polluting firms were warned that their names would be made public in six months if they were still in violation. The announcement triggered a wave of reporting about industrial pollution in the Indonesian press with dozens of articles appearing in newspapers and magazines. To maintain public interest and pressure on polluters, PROPER plans to publish plant pollution ratings for specific types of industries at regular intervals.