Public Goods and Information-Based Environmental Governance

In my dissertation research, I have been interested in the relationship between the popularity of eco-labels and green ratings and perceptions of their effectiveness.  How do different stakeholders evaluate and perceive different forms of information-based governance, and what programs do they collectively find to be the most effective?  And are those programs also the most popular and well-known?  To answer these questions, I have focused on a subset of environmental certifications and rankings relating to the electronics sector, and interviewed over 60 representatives from relevant electronics companies, government agencies, advocacy organizations, and academic institutions about their relative effectiveness.   Thus far, I have not found a strong relationship between popularity and perceived effectiveness, which suggests that the future evolution of these programs may not necessarily be oriented greater effectiveness.

Perceptions of effectiveness may not, however, reflect the actual effectiveness of these programs.  In the next phase of my research, I am interested in evaluating how effective these programs actually are.  I plan to identify the specific outcomes and claimed benefits of a range of programs and then evaluate their value to society, based on competing theories of public goods.  What are they claiming as their primary contributions to society, how real are those contributions, and how important are they, relative to other types of benefits?  In order to address these questions, I will select a set of case studies from my dissertation’s sample of over 250 information-based programs for more in-depth analysis of their environmental outcomes.  I will analyze the claims of benefits and outcomes these cases make on their websites, as well as claims made by third parties, and compare them to claims made by other initiatives and related non-information-based governance initiatives.  This research will build on my previous work, and will enable me to identify the types and quality of the public goods generated by eco-labels and green ratings, and what factors may be associated with the most significant outcomes and benefits.

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