Ma Jun and the IPE: Using Information to Improve China's Environment

By Hau Lee, Erica Plambeck, Maria Shao
2009 | Case No. SI115
The Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, founded and led by prominent Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun, was a small non-profit organization with an outsized mission. The Beijing-based group aimed to be a catalyst in “greening” China’s manufacturing facilities. The IPE operated public, online databases of air and water violations by factories throughout China, creating a groundbreaking “blacklist” of polluters. By mid-2009, IPE had compiled databases with more than 47,000 air and water violations. To get off the list, 22 multinational corporations took corrective actions and accepted IPE-supervised environmental audits of their Chinese factories. Ma was a champion of increasing access to environmental information, which he believed could bring public pressure on companies to operate more responsibly. Ma also was a well-respected voice on China’s environment and a leading advocate of public participation in managing China’s environment. But the environmental entrepreneur was searching for ways his organization could make a bigger impact. The case presents the contributions that a non-governmental organization can make in bringing about environmental change. It focuses on the role that information transparency and supply chain improvements can play in reducing pollution.
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