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In the LEED: Racing to the Top in Environmental Self‐Regulation

Mallory Elise Flowers, Daniel C. Matisoff and Douglas Noonan

Business Strategy and the Environment, 2020, vol. 29, issue 6, 2842-2856

Abstract: Does voluntary participation in eco‐certification become more substantive over time, or less? Although past research on voluntary programs suggests that later participants are more likely to greenwash by only symbolically adopting voluntary standards, theories of regulatory competition suggest a possible “race to the top.” We argue that participation in voluntary programs can facilitate competition that enables a race, and we advance a theory of self‐regulatory competition to explain dynamics of participation in voluntary environmental programs. Under this perspective, environmental self‐regulation may facilitate a race to the top, despite possibilities for purely symbolic adoption. Analyzing data from a voluntary green building certification program in the United States, we introduce a methodology to distinguish propensities for symbolic certification from more substantive environmental performance. Data demonstrate that later adopters invest additional resources to attain higher certification, becoming greener and suggesting a race to the top in a voluntary greenbuilding certification program.

Date: 2020
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