Research

My research centers on the provision of information as a form of environmental management and governance.  This topic was the focus of my dissertation at the University of California, Berkeley, and has also been a common thread through my previous academic work and professional experiences.  The provision of information is increasingly being used to both organize the internal resources of organizations (“management”) and encourage the creation of public goods (“governance”).  Examples include the wide range of product eco-labels, green ratings of companies, and environmental rankings of countries that have been introduced by government agencies, non-profit organizations, corporations, and the media.  These include programs such as Energy Star, the Forest Stewardship Council, Walmart’s Sustainability Index, and Newsweek’s Greenest Big Companies in America Rankings.

I am interested in improving our understanding of these new strategies because they are directly relevant to corporations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and individuals.  They have become increasingly prominent in recent years, and present difficult strategic and operational questions for companies that touch on the domains of management, sales and marketing, research and development, supply chains, and business ethics.  How should companies engage with these initiatives?  Should they ignore them, join existing ones, or create their own?  These programs also involve difficult choices for policy-makers and advocacy groups interested in regulating industry – does information disclosure complement, replace, or distract from more traditional governance approaches?  How can they be designed to maximize the value of the public goods they create?  And they present challenges for consumers and citizens as well – how should we respond to the multitude of green claims that we encounter everyday in the marketplace?

In my research, I am focused on investigating the factors driving the initial emergence and relative popularity of these strategies as a form of “information-based environmental governance.”  I am also exploring how firms and organizations manage these programs and their responses to alternative initiatives, and how different stakeholders perceive their relative effectiveness and the public benefits they deliver.  I am also interested in the role of “information entrepreneurs” in their innovation and diffusion, and how consumers and citizens respond differently to different types of information-based initiatives.  I am researching the development of these programs in different regional and national contexts as well, and especially in China and the rest of Asia.  Please click on the links below to learn more these different research areas.