Beyond Compliance: Explaining Business Participation in Voluntary Environmental Programs

44 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2012

See all articles by Jonathan C. Borck

Jonathan C. Borck

Analysis Group, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts

Cary Coglianese

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Date Written: June 7, 2011


Government regulators have shown considerable interest in encouraging businesses to participate in voluntary environmental programs and practice environmental stewardship in ways that go beyond what regulations require. At the same time, researchers have increasingly worked to understand how businesses respond to regulatory and other government incentives, seeking to explain in particular why some businesses choose to take additional environmentally protective action even when they are not required to do so. Existing research on such beyond-compliance behavior, however, has drawn primarily on small-sample qualitative research. In this paper, we report findings from a large-sample survey that asked US managers to report on their facilities’ operations and participation in government-sponsored voluntary environmental programs. Our results confirm, and importantly extend, the existing literature in a number of ways. We find that some of the well-accepted outside pressures, such as looming regulation, appear to explain businesses’ ‘beyond-compliance’ decisions, but so too do internal factors that have so far tended to escape the kind of large-scale, systematic analysis we provide here. Facilities that are larger and report greater support from top-level management are more likely to join voluntary programs and otherwise report going beyond the requirements of environmental regulations. Similarly, facilities that exhibit an extroverted disposition and seek out the opinions of outside community and environmental advocacy groups are more likely to go beyond compliance. Our measures of these intra-organizational, dispositional factors remain statistically significant in most or all alternative specifications of our regression models. This study not only confirms the general importance of widely accepted external factors that affect beyond compliance behavior, but also reveals a need to pay greater attention to heretofore relatively neglected internal factors.

Keywords: Environmental law and policy, environmental economics, empirical legal studies, public policy analysis, corporate social responsibility, voluntary programs, Environmental Protection Agency, Climate Leaders, Energy Star, National Environmental Performance Track, Project XL, 33/50, OSHA

JEL Classification: D78, K23, K32, L51, Q58

Suggested Citation

Borck, Jonathan C. and Coglianese, Cary, Beyond Compliance: Explaining Business Participation in Voluntary Environmental Programs (June 7, 2011). U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper No. 12-04; U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 12-06. Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan C. Borck

Analysis Group, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts ( email )

111 Huntington Avenue
10th floor
Boston, MA 02199

Cary Coglianese (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-898-6867 (Phone)


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