The Environmental Protection Agency—the largest sponsor of environmental programs—contributed $69 million, or 1.6 percent of their budget, to funding Voluntary Environmental Programs (VEPs) last year.
Yet according to research by Nicole Darnall, assistant professor of environmental science and policy at Mason, and doctoral student Stephen Sides, these programs do not appear to boost environmental performance. In the study of more than 30,000 firms, companies that did not participate in VEPs performed 7.7 percent better than participants.
The way these programs are monitored also appears to affect performance. Companies that are self-monitored—as opposed certified by an external third party—appear to do even worse in their overall environmental goals. Nonparticipating companies outperformed companies participating in self-monitored VEPs by 24 percent.
"Design deficiencies, specifically the absence of third-party oversight of performance monitoring, invite 'free ridership' on the part of some participants," says Darnall. "Companies are taking part in these programs and receive credit for doing so, but some aren’t really adhering to the goals."
The disappointing performance results also appear to relate to weak VEP goals. Darnall says that "While other companies may be meeting program requirements, nonparticipating companies may have stronger goals. Specific and challenging goals result in a higher performance."
Darnall and Sides aggregated results found from nine previous studies from 1999-2007. They defined environmental performance as an objective quantitative change in pollution or conditions contributing to the same such as degree of recycling, pollution prevention and time out of compliance.
More than 200 VEPs exist in the United States at the regional and national levels, and even more operate within states and localities. VEPs include programs such as the 33/50 Program, which asked companies to reduce certain emissions, discharges and waste streams by 33 percent in 1992 and 50 percent in 1995; the Climate Challenge Program, sponsored by the Department of Energy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions; the ISO 14001, an externally regulated program; Responsible Care, adopted by the American Chemistry Council; and the Sustainable Slopes Program for ski areas.
"It is important to ask, 'What is the role of these programs?' If VEPs are designed for the single purpose of encouraging participants to improve the environment to a greater degree than companies that don’t participate, then they are failing," Darnall says.
However, she points out that VEPs could have other roles. VEPs can explore innovative environmental policy ideas. “Such ideas can be tested and evaluated before they are implemented across the regulated community.”
The study was published in the February issue (Vol. 36, No. 1) of Policy Studies Journal.About George Mason University
Tara Laskowski | EurekAlert!
Multi-year study finds 'hotspots' of ammonia over world's major agricultural areas
17.03.2017 | University of Maryland
Diabetes Drug May Improve Bone Fat-induced Defects of Fracture Healing
17.03.2017 | Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy