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Public Voluntary Programs Reconsidered

  • Thomas P. Lyon

    (Ross School of Business, University of Michigan)

  • John W. Maxwell

    (Department of Business Economics and Public Policy, Indiana University Kelley School of Business)

“Public voluntary programs” (PVPs) involve government offers of positive publicity and technical assistance to firms that reach certain environmental goals. A growing body of empirical evidence suggests these programs often have little impact on the behavior of their participants. A natural policy conclusion would be to eliminate these programs, but this paper offers several reasons not to jump to such a conclusion. We first present a political-economic framework in which PVPs are viewed as modest subsidies used when political opposition makes stronger environmental regulation infeasible. We then explore the design of PVPs in detail, showing how PVPs can potentially enhance the diffusion of cost-effective techniques for pollution abatement, so long as the information involved is not competitively sensitive. Identifying the effects of PVPs econometrically is difficult because information is likely to diffuse to non-participants. Thus, after the early phases of even a successful PVP, it may well be impossible to detect a difference in performance between participants and non-participants.

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File URL: http://kelley.iu.edu/riharbau/RePEc/iuk/wpaper/bepp2007-07-lyon-maxwell.pdf
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Paper provided by Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy in its series Working Papers with number 2007-07.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:iuk:wpaper:2007-07
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  1. Maxwell, John W & Lyon, Thomas P & Hackett, Steven C, 2000. "Self-Regulation and Social Welfare: The Political Economy of Corporate Environmentalism," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(2), pages 583-617, October.
  2. Vidovic, Martina & Khanna, Neha, 2007. "Can voluntary pollution prevention programs fulfill their promises? Further evidence from the EPA's 33/50 Program," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 180-195, March.
  3. DeCanio, Stephen J, 1998. "The efficiency paradox: bureaucratic and organizational barriers to profitable energy-saving investments," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 441-454, April.
  4. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521819473 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521603768 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Gamper-Rabindran, Shanti, 2006. "Did the EPA's voluntary industrial toxics program reduce emissions? A GIS analysis of distributional impacts and by-media analysis of substitution," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 391-410, July.
  7. Khanna, Madhu & Damon, Lisa A., 1999. "EPA's Voluntary 33/50 Program: Impact on Toxic Releases and Economic Performance of Firms," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 1-25, January.
  8. Segerson, Kathleen & Miceli, Thomas J., 1998. "Voluntary Environmental Agreements: Good or Bad News for Environmental Protection?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 109-130, September.
  9. Eric W. Welch & Allan Mazur & Stuart Bretschneider, 2000. "Voluntary behavior by electric utilities: Levels of adoption and contribution of the climate challenge program to the reduction of carbon dioxide," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(3), pages 407-425.
  10. John Maxwell & Christopher Decker, 2006. "Voluntary Environmental Investment and Responsive Regulation," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 33(4), pages 425-439, 04.
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