Pollution prevention is an essential mission during the transition of China’s economy from high-speed growth to high-quality growth, which requires not only the supervision by governmental macro-control, but also the pollution reduction initiative of production entities. The existing literature empirically shows the critical function of publication participation in pollution prevention, and the public appeals to environmental protection are an important force to restrict enterprise pollution emissions, as well as improve government environmental regulation. Therefore, it is critically important to clarify the channel of public appeals determining environmental regulation, the mechanism of public appeals affecting enterprise pollution emissions, and the impact of public appeals on the heterogeneity among enterprise indicators, such as size, property rights, geographic location, industry, etc.
This paper applies dynamic optimization approaches to investigate the mechanism of public appeals affecting enterprise pollution emissions, within the framework of the heterogeneity and uncertainty of environmental policies. Empirically, this paper summarizes 414,211 observations from the China Industrial Enterprise Database, the Industrial Enterprise Pollution Emission Database and the Patent Database, and the index of public environmental appeals at the enterprise level from Baidu environmental search. Furthermore, this paper examines the impact of public appeals on enterprise pollution reduction based on the Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) method and the Instrumental Variable (IV) method, controlling the impact of corporate effect, industry effect, and year effect.
The empirical results show that the high intensity of public environmental appeals significantly decreases the pollution emission level of enterprises, and the results are also significant in the robustness test. The lag public environmental appeals lose their impact on the pollution emissions of the current period, indicating that the impact of public environmental appeals on enterprise pollution emissions is time-sensitive. On the other side, the impact of public environmental appeals on enterprise pollution emissions shows heterogeneity in size, property rights, geographic locations and industry. With the increase of public environmental appeals and the increase of public opinion pressure on emission reduction, the government will strengthen environmental regulation.
This paper complements the existing literature on the theoretical research of environmental protection, and widens the boundary of studies on public environmental participation promotion and environmental governance system improvement. Firstly, this paper shows the positive impact of public environmental appeals on enterprise pollution emission reduction, and provides empirical support for the improvement of public participation in the civil environmental protection system. Moreover, considering the heterogeneity of positive impact, it is essential to emphasize the cooperation among large and medium-sized enterprises, state-owned enterprises, enterprises in the eastern region, and non-key polluting enterprises, as well as the improvement of pollution management capability of other enterprises. Finally, government environmental regulation develops a critical bridge between public environmental appeals and enterprise pollution emission behavior.