Though not entirely new in political science in general, the concept of symbolic politics (SP) currently meets a vivid reception in law and economics. Yet little attention has been paid to SP from a business perspective. Elements of SP are found in nearly all fields of environmental legislation, and the paper will focus on those empirical examples that have a particular effect on markets, the competitive situation of businesses and corporate strategies in general. The consequences of SP for companies are analysed from two different perspectives. First, business will be seen as an addressee of SP. Specific corporate consequences and reactions are discussed. Second, corporations can be regarded as users of SP, as they assume increasingly a role as political actors themselves. This results from certain developments in environmental regulation as well as from the fact that globalization increasingly weakens national governments and their political power, while at the same time corporate actors assume more influence and responsibility. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.