Voluntary Regulation of the Environment: Understanding Institutional Factors that Shape Voluntary Environmental Programs
voluntary environmental programs
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation focuses on the role of institutions in shaping the establishment, dissemination, and efficacy of voluntary environmental governance regimes. In particular, the institutional lens was introduced to understand the motivations and the mechanisms that govern the behavior of individuals in the context of voluntary environmental programs (VEPs). By drawing upon research relating to policy design, regulatory innovation, and the policy feedback theory, I explore and analyze how regulatory, individual, and institutional based factors complementarily influence the adoption and efficacy of the VEPs. Given the growing need for reducing environmental impact, such insights can help policymakers better understand the appropriateness and efficacy of different policy instruments in managing the environment. To fulfill my research agenda, I conduct three empirical tests to not only show whether the voluntary instruments are effective in addressing environmental problems but also how and under what conditions such instruments can help and produce a broader effect on society as a whole. First, I provide a meta-analytical test of the effects of VEPs on improving environmental performance, finding that the institutional design elements of the programs can explain why VEP studies over the past twenty years have drawn different conclusions about VEP efficacy. I also examine one specific voluntary program: the green building standard, LEED. I look at different factors leading to LEED adoptions. A cross-country study of LEED adoptions explains why VEPs develop in some countries but not the others. Different from existing literature that focuses more on individual level corporate practices, I explore whether country-level factors such as income level and regulatory stringency can explain the dissemination dynamics of VEPs. To extend on this adoption dynamics, I also examine “public adopters”. I investigate the scenario when public regulation integrates a private regime, such as LEED, in laws and even make the voluntary commitments mandatory. I analyze how interest groups respond to such a policy change and how this will impact the future trajectories of sustainability transitions. The overall findings of this dissertation indicate a prominent role of institutional design in developing VEPs, provide implications for policy practitioners that VEPs might be helpful in addressing green investment deficits, and add to the growing understanding of local governments as innovators in aspects of environmental governance.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Government and Public Policy