In the effort to achieve environmental goals, policymakers have a number of tools available, including environmental and urban planning, regulatory and permitting programs, various types of incentives, purchasing programs, monitoring requirements, and the establishment of administrative, civil, and criminal sanctions. The applicability and effectiveness of these tools are of course dependent on the particular cultural, economic, and governmental context.
Though criminal enforcement of environmental laws is sometimes perceived as a reactive measure, representing the failure of other approaches, it can serve an important function in deterring environmental abuses; promoting respect for environmental policies; sanctioning persons who violate the law; and reducing or eliminating the competitive advantage and the economic incentive to violate environmental regulations.
Today, the massive scale of production activities undertaken by corporations around the world, and the competitive emphasis on maximizing profits, means that corporations may be inclined to cut comers when it comes to environmental compliance. Under these conditions, they can subject themselves to criminal liability when their behavior reveals a sufficient level of disregard for public safety and environmental integrity.
Jeffry S. Wade, Environmental Damages and Crimes, 15 Fla. J. Int'l L. 39 (2002), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/290