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"It pays to be green" - a premature conclusion?

It has been claimed that good environmental performance can improve firms’ economic performance. However, because of e.g. data limitations, the methods applied in most previous quantitative empirical studies of the relationship between environmental and economic performance of firms suffer from several shortcomings. We discuss these shortcomings and conclude that previously applied methods are unsatisfactory as support for a conclusion that it pays for firms to be green. Then we illustrate the effects of these shortcomings by performing several regression analyses of the relationship between environmental and economic performance using a panel data set of Norwegian plants. A simple correlation analysis confirms the positive association between our measures of environmental and economic performance. The result prevails when we control for firm characteristics like e.g. size or sub-industry in a pooled regression. However, the result could still be biased by omitted unobserved variables like management or technology. When we control for unobserved plant specific characteristics in a panel regression, the effect is no longer statistically significant. Hence, greener plants perform economically better, but the analysis provides no support for the claim that it is because they are greener. These empirical findings further indicate that a conclusion that it pays to be green is premature.

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Paper provided by Statistics Norway, Research Department in its series Discussion Papers with number 394.

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Date of creation: Nov 2004
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Handle: RePEc:ssb:dispap:394
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  1. Théophile AZOMAHOU & Phu NGUYEN VAN & Marcus WAGNER, 2001. "Determinants of Environmental and Economic Performance of Firms: An Empirical Analysis of the European Paper Industry," Working Papers of BETA 2001-22, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
  2. Harrington, Winston, 1988. "Enforcement leverage when penalties are restricted," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 29-53, October.
  3. Cooley, Thomas F. & Leroy, Stephen F., 1985. "Atheoretical macroeconometrics: A critique," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 283-308, November.
  4. Shameek Konar & Mark A. Cohen, 2001. "Does The Market Value Environmental Performance?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(2), pages 281-289, May.
  5. Karen Palmer & Wallace E. Oates & Paul R. Portney, 1995. "Tightening Environmental Standards: The Benefit-Cost or the No-Cost Paradigm?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 119-132, Fall.
  6. Greg Filbeck & Raymond Gorman, 2004. "The Relationship between the Environmental and Financial Performance of Public Utilities," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 29(2), pages 137-157, October.
  7. Brekke, Kjell Arne & Nyborg, Karine, 2005. "Moral hazard and moral motivation: Corporate social responsibility as labor market screening," Memorandum 25/2004, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  8. Golombek, Rolf & Raknerud, Arvid, 1997. " Do Environmental Standards Harm Manufacturing Employment?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 99(1), pages 29-44, March.
  9. Callens, Isabelle & Tyteca, Daniel, 1999. "Towards indicators of sustainable development for firms: A productive efficiency perspective," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 41-53, January.
  10. Adam B. Jaffe et al., 1995. "Environmental Regulation and the Competitiveness of U.S. Manufacturing: What Does the Evidence Tell Us?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 132-163, March.
  11. Ebert, Udo & Welsch, Heinz, 2004. "Meaningful environmental indices: a social choice approach," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 270-283, March.
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