In Late August, I attended the American Political Science Association (APSA) Annual Meeting in Chicago. I presented a poster on ““Who Persuades the Persuaders? Power and Accountability in Information-Based Governance Strategies,” which analyzed data from my eco-labels and ratings database on the types of organizations that are behind these initiatives. The emphasis of the poster closely related to the theme of the conference, “power and persuasion,” and highlighted the opacity of power and lack of transparency in the field of information-based governance.
I had the opportunity to attend a variety of panels and poster sessions at the conference, an increasing number of which are related to environmental politics. I was also able to connect with a significant number of other researchers who are working on projects related to my own work, and I look forward to following up and possibly collaborating with them in the future.
In June, I attended the Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI)’s Conference at Clark University. I had never been to Clark, which is located in Worchester, MA, but had heard good things about it from one of my Nature Conservancy colleagues from China who had gotten her masters degree there. It is a little hard to get there, but has a beautiful campus that is easy to get around. The plenary sessions of the conference were held in a particularly beautiful and airy space, Tilton Hall.
The conference itself had a great range of talks and panels relating to consumption and sustainability. I presented a paper on “The Consumer/Citizen Relationship across Time and Space: Millennial Perspectives on Responsible Citizenship in Different Issue Domains,” which built on insights from my political science seminar on citizens, consumers, and the environment. In the seminar, students are required to write a 20-25 page research paper on responsible citizenship applying concepts and theories discussed in the class to a particular issue area that they are interested in – water, energy, climate change, etc. I thought it would be interesting to systematically examine the approaches they took and the citizenship-related ideas they used in their papers. The analysis was an interesting window on how the concept of citizenship translates both across issue areas and generations.
Overall, the students used a wide range of concepts in their papers, but made particularly extensive use of ideas from our readings on communitarianism, consequentialism, the engaged citizen, and social capital. One of the overarching conclusions of the paper and from the course is that responsible citizenship as an overarching frame of reference may be more appealing to younger generations than sustainable consumerism, which increasingly may be seen as a necessary but insufficient component of a citizen’s responsibilities.
Back when the Democratic National Convention was in Charlotte a couple of weeks ago, Davidson College organized a panel event on energy and sustainability on campus as a non-partisan complement to the events going on downtown. Moderated by the Sustainability Editor from Bloomberg News, the panel included the Mayor of Charlotte, Anthony Foxx, the CEO of Siemens USA, and the Director of Duke Energy’s Smart Energy Now program.
I was also asked to serve on the panel to represent Davidson and to talk about environmental policy and environmental entrepreneurship. I was quite honored to be asked to participate in the event, and looked forward to having a stimulating conversation with the other panelists. I thought it went pretty well — turnout was very good, and people I talked with afterwards – staff, faculty, students, community members — seemed to find it engaging and interesting. If you are interested, you can see for yourself — below are links to a write-up about the panel in the local online newspaper (written by the Chair of my Political Science Department, Shelley Rigger) and to a full video recording of the event.
You can watch the whole thing if you’d like (it is about an hour long and covers a great range of topics), or you can skip to the good parts; that is, of course, when I am talking 🙂 (9:54, 21:25, 31:38, 1:01:00, and 1:06:13).
Here are the links…
– Daybook Davidson | VIDEO: Energy Panel Electrifies Davidson Crowd in Duke Family Performance Hall
– Energy panelists face tough questions from college audience | DavidsonNews.net
In June, I attended the Annual Meeting of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS) at Santa Clara University, which is right outside San Jose, CA. I presented a paper on “Environmental Evaluations of Companies and Products: The Role of Academia,” which built on data from an online survey of over 400 individuals I conducted as part of my dissertation research. Among those surveyed, academic institutions were the most preferred source of information about the product and corporate environmental performance — more preferred than government, non-profit, media, and company sources. And yet my coding of over 245 eco-label and rating initiatives indicate academic institutions are the least likely to be directly involved in the implementation and design of these programs. I analyzed several examples of initiatives that are run by or closely associated with academic institutions, as a means to demonstrate the range of ways academics can be involved in these efforts.
We then discussed why academic researchers have had such limited involvement, whether they should be more involved (without losing their credibility and independence), and ways that might facilitate academics to becoming more engaged with these programs in the future. While there are important pitfalls to avoid in doings, the strong preferences survey participants have for academic involvement suggest that they can very much improve the perceived quality and credibility of existing eco-labels and ratings.
The conference overall was fantastic, and I learned a lot from the diverse sessions that I attended. Strongly recommended conference for people who research environmental issues, and especially those who teach in interdisciplinary environmental studies and sciences programs.
In June, I attended a small conference on eco-labels at the University of Michigan, which was hosted for the second year by the Ross School of Business Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise (and jointly sponsored by the Sustainability Consortium). I had attended the first conference in 2010, and it was great to see many of the same people, and compare notes on the state of eco-labels around the world. This year’s theme was “Informing Green Markets: What Makes a Difference and Why,” and there was a fantastic range of presentations on supplier choices about certification, corporate level reputation ratings, social norms and labeling, consumer awareness, and designing better systems.
My own presentation was on “Green” Demand: Consumer Preferences for Different Types of Product Ecolabels and Corporate Sustainability Ratings,” and discussed the results of my online survey of over 500 consumers. Overall, both academic researchers and practitioners from the private, government, and non-profit sectors attended the conference, which made for some engaging discussions among people who have thought a lot about the questions and issues that I have been grappling with and analyzing in my own research over the last several years. I look forward to staying in touch with the other attendees, and keeping up on their work in the field.