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Greener and cleaner? The signaling accuracy of U.S. voluntary environmental programs

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  • Nicole Darnall

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  • Joann Carmin

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Abstract

Voluntary environmental programs (VEPs) have become a popular alternative to traditional regulation. However, little is known about whether these programs are sending accurate signals about the environmental practices of their participants. As a means for understanding signaling accuracy, this research investigates VEP design characteristics. The findings suggest that there are four distinct types of programs with varying degrees of rigor. Because information for differentiating among program types is limited, less rigorous VEPs can signal that their administrative, environmental performance and conformance requirements are comparable to programs with more robust designs. Further, the lack of monitoring and sanctions in less rigorous programs create opportunities for participants to free-ride and receive benefits without satisfying VEP requirements. Unless some means of distinguishing among program types is implemented, these issues can threaten the long term viability of VEPs as a tool for environmental protection, and the credibility of market mechanisms more broadly. Copyright Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Suggested Citation

  • Nicole Darnall & Joann Carmin, 2005. "Greener and cleaner? The signaling accuracy of U.S. voluntary environmental programs," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 38(2), pages 71-90, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:policy:v:38:y:2005:i:2:p:71-90
    DOI: 10.1007/s11077-005-6591-9
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Berrone, Pascual & Gelabert, Liliana & Fosfuri, Andrea, 2009. "The impact of symbolic and substantive actions on environmental legitimacy," IESE Research Papers D/778, IESE Business School.
    2. Blackman, Allen & Naranjo, María Angélica & Robalino, Juan & Alpízar, Francisco & Rivera, Jorge, 2014. "Does Tourism Eco-Certification Pay? Costa Rica’s Blue Flag Program," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 41-52.
    3. Thomas P. Lyon & John W. Maxwell, 2014. "Self-Regulation and Regulatory Flexibility: Why Firms May be Reluctant to Signal Green," Working Papers 2014-11, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
    4. repec:kap:jbuset:v:148:y:2018:i:4:d:10.1007_s10551-016-3019-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Andrea Prado & Arch Woodside, 2015. "Deepening Understanding of Certification Adoption and Non-Adoption of International-Supplier Ethical Standards," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 132(1), pages 105-125, November.
    6. James Cordeiro & Manish Tewari, 2015. "Firm Characteristics, Industry Context, and Investor Reactions to Environmental CSR: A Stakeholder Theory Approach," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 130(4), pages 833-849, September.
    7. Luis Perez-Batres & Jonathan Doh & Van Miller & Michael Pisani, 2012. "Stakeholder Pressures as Determinants of CSR Strategic Choice: Why do Firms Choose Symbolic Versus Substantive Self-Regulatory Codes of Conduct?," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 110(2), pages 157-172, October.

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