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Tax breaks and other instruments

A vital step in many countries is to restructure tax systems and subsidy programmes in order to bring them more in line with social and environmental goals. Such reforms also enable governments to acquire some of the huge amounts needed to finance the changes in public sector systems needed to achieve set targets.

In other cases, more stringent and direct regulations are introduced, including restrictions or outright bans on particular activities, such as logging in national parks, the use of particular chemicals and even driving in urban areas. These efforts can also be very costly, at least in the short term.

Although hampered at times by the actions of governments and NGOs, businesses play a positive role in many areas. As a sequel to the 14000 series of standards on environmental management systems, the ISO introduces a series of standards related to the social and ethical dimensions of business. These actions build upon and complement joint efforts by governments and business, such as the Global Compact for Business and the Global Reporting Initiative. Businesses take an increasingly active role in the consultation processes associated with many policy initiatives, a form of intervention that does much to stimulate technology development and transfer.

Action by NGOs and consumer groups includes the use of consumer boycotts and media campaigns to push less progressive businesses to act. They lobby for new labelling and reporting requirements to ensure that business practice is more transparent and accountable. Several of these groups are explicitly included in later rounds of the WTO negotiations. At the same time, these pressure groups also act as watchdogs on governments, ensuring that leaders act responsibly. Stricter limits are placed on how government officials behave, allowing most who overstep reasonable bounds to be voted out of office.