A pilot project designed to produce more accurate audit reports and lower pollution emissions, orchestrated by Harvard Kennedy School Professor Rohini Pande and a group of fellow scholars, is having a real impact on the ground in India.

Environmental authorities in the Indian state of Gujarat reformed their environmental auditing system in January based on findings from the large-scale study conducted in partnership with economists at Harvard, MIT, the University of Chicago, and Yale. The new guidelines issued by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) require environmental auditors to be randomly assigned to industrial plants and have their work double-checked for accuracy. These changes were part of those tested in the pilot study, and led auditors to report more accurately and industrial plants to cut pollution.

“Gujarat has a very strong commitment to environmental protection,” says Hardik Shah, member secretary of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board, who spearheaded the efforts to get the new audit guidelines approved and built the systems to scale them up. “The state is at the forefront of testing and implementing innovative policies that actually work, which is why we wanted to partner with this team of researchers. The visionary leadership of the state coupled with the strong evidence generated through the research has been a guiding force for implementing new ideas in our march towards sustainable development.”