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Corporate apology for environmental damage

Author

Listed:
  • Ben Gilbert

    (Colorado School of Mines)

  • Alexander James

    () (University of Alaska Anchorage)

  • Jason F. Shogren

    (University of Wyoming)

Abstract

Abstract Apologies are a powerful way to restore trust and reduce punishment costs in bilateral settings. But what do we know about public apologies for large scale man-made disasters? Herein we report on results from an experiment with apologies in a multilateral setting: a firm-caused environmental disaster. Subjects read about an oil spill scenario, and learned whether the oil firm made a full apology, a partial apology, or no apology, and whether the firm had a good, bad, or no environmental reputation. A partial apology is one that fails to accept full material responsibility for damages, such as by shifting the blame to another party. We find that full apologies and better reputation reduce the demand for punishment. However, full apologies and reputation are substitutes, with reputation being significantly more important. Additionally, apologies do not reduce the demand for compensation and may increase it if the firm is clearly a bad actor, or if admission of guilt is the only information subjects have. Our results help explain corporate social responsibility investments and greenwashing, and why many public apologies over an environmental disaster are only partial apologies.

Suggested Citation

  • Ben Gilbert & Alexander James & Jason F. Shogren, 2018. "Corporate apology for environmental damage," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 56(1), pages 51-81, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jrisku:v:56:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11166-018-9276-4
    DOI: 10.1007/s11166-018-9276-4
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Basil Halperin & Benjamin Ho & John List & Ian Muir, 2018. "Toward an understanding of the economics of apologies: evidence from a large-scale natural field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00644, The Field Experiments Website.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Corporate social responsibility; Greenwashing; Apologies; Environmental disaster; Cheap talk;

    JEL classification:

    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation

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