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Coming Clean

Coming Clean: Information Disclosure and Environmental Performance

Michael E. Kraft
Mark Stephan
Troy D. Abel
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Coming Clean
    Book Description:

    Coming Clean is the first book to investigate the process of information disclosure as a policy strategy for environmental protection. This process, which requires that firms disclose information about their environmental performance, is part of an approach to environmental protection that eschews the conventional command-and-control regulatory apparatus, which sometimes leads government and industry to focus on meeting only minimal standards. The authors of Coming Clean examine the effectiveness of information disclosure in achieving actual improvements in corporate environmental performance by analyzing data from the federal government's Toxics Release Inventory, or TRI, and drawing on an original set of survey data from corporations and federal, state, and local officials, among other sources. The authors find that TRI--probably the best-known example of information disclosure--has had a substantial effect over time on the environmental performance of industry. But, drawing on case studies from across the nation, they show that the improvement is not uniform: some facilities have been leaders while others have been laggards. The authors argue that information disclosure has an important role to play in environmental policy--but only as part of an integrated set of policy tools that includes conventional regulation.The hardcover edition does not include a dust jacket.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-29520-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Sheldon Kamieniecki

    The numerous illegal activities by leaders of some of America’s largest corporations at the turn of the century undermined the trust and confidence the public had in private firms and the ability of corporations to promote social responsibility was understandably questioned. More recently, the failure of large banks and investment firms, the enormous bonuses their top executives continue to receive, and the Bernard Madoff scandal have also led to increased cynicism concerning the true willingness of companies to promote the public good. Clearly, public trust in American business has significantly eroded over the past decade as a result of the...

  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Information Disclosure and Environmental Performance
    (pp. 1-22)

    By all accounts, industrial corporations today take their environmental performance seriously. Increasingly, corporate managers believe that people care about the way companies affect the environment, and they recognize the need to show due regard for the health of the communities in which they have a facility. As a result, many companies of widely varying size and across every industrial sector regularly tout their green credentials in print advertisements and television commercials. Many of them also highlight their environmental achievements and aspirations on company Web sites and in annual reports to shareholders.

    The popular press has reported favorably on these developments,...

  6. 2 How Does Information Disclosure Work?
    (pp. 23-52)

    In the earliest years of the TRI program, as information about chemical releases became public, many of the nation’s leading corporations prominently proclaimed their dedication to reducing those releases substantially. Some of the largest companies confessed that they had no idea prior to compiling the TRI data that they were releasing such massive quantities of dangerous chemicals. The public availability of the information appeared to move them to announce significant changes in their operations and in their chemical releases. But why did they do that, and what are the implications for environmental information disclosure as a policy strategy? Among the...

  7. 3 Reducing Toxic Releases and Community Risks
    (pp. 53-82)

    One of the most striking developments upon the implementation of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) and release of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) was the flurry of announcements from major corporations suddenly attuned to new public expectations for coming clean, that is, for improvements in environmental performance and transparency in release of toxic chemicals. One company that received more press attention than most others was Monsanto. In the early 1990s it was a leading chemical manufacturer and today it is one of the largest and most prominent agricultural biotechnology corporations in the world. In 1988, the first year...

  8. 4 States of Green: Regional Variations in Environmental Performance
    (pp. 83-118)

    Any review of TRI data since the program’s first public report in 1988 leads to an inescapable conclusion of substantial progress over time. As we recounted in chapters 1 and 3, reductions in overall releases of toxic chemicals by the nation’s manufacturing industries have been truly impressive, with over 60 percent decrease in releases of the original or core chemicals tracked by the program through 2007. Yet this clear improvement in environmental performance captures only part of the full story. The national trends reflect actions taken by facilities across the fifty states, but the pattern is anything but even; there...

  9. 5 Facility-Level Perspectives on the TRI and Environmental Performance
    (pp. 119-152)

    As is true of most environmental programs, progress within the TRI program is in the eye of the beholder. As the opening quotations from our respondents indicate, variation in perceptions of the program and related efforts at pollution control and prevention is common. In addition, the responses are conditioned by exactly what kind of question is asked, when it is asked, and of whom. Indeed, our surveys and interviews with both facility respondents and public officials revealed widely varying perspectives about the TRI program and the set of expectations that it represents for facility environmental performance. Some see the program...

  10. 6 Environmental Leaders and Laggards: Explaining Performance
    (pp. 153-176)

    The findings presented in chapter 5 leave us with at least one clear conclusion: variation is both a hallmark of environmental performance at facilities and a key signpost of the differing opinions about the TRI program, the nature of toxic chemical management, and the extent of communication between facilities and others. Whether facilities are increasing their emissions, decreasing their emissions, or fluctuating over time, each has a unique perspective on the TRI program and management of toxic chemicals. The descriptive data from the surveys captures key aspects of the management of toxic chemical emissions, as perceived by those directly involved...

  11. 7 Conclusions and Policy Implications
    (pp. 177-202)

    The 2009 TRI Public Data Release reported the release of 4.1 billion pounds of toxic chemicals in the United States. This represented a drop of 5 percent from the previous year and reflected a continuing trend of decreasing releases as a result of pollution prevention, changes in industrial use of chemicals, and a decline in U.S. manufacturing, among other factors (U.S. EPA 2009). But the 2009 data release was distinctive in at least one respect. It was the first to be prepared under relaxed requirements set in place by the George W. Bush administration and finalized by the EPA in...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 203-220)
  13. References
    (pp. 221-240)
  14. Index
    (pp. 241-249)