Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Professor Mark Sproule-Jones




The use of "voluntary measures" as an alternative policy instrument by government agencies has increased across the world. Such initiatives are based on voluntary commitments by the private sector to improve their environmental performance beyond what the law demands. While there have been many studies which look at the implementation and design of such programs, few provide an empirical comparison of the effectiveness of voluntary measures to other policy instruments. This study provides a comparative analysis of the relative effectiveness of two voluntary measures (the ARET Program in Canada and the 33/50 Program in the United States) in reducing emissions of targeted toxic substances versus reductions under the mandatory regulatory system alone. Data were collected for two study populations, tracking trends in emissions of ten substances from 1988-2000: firms that were participants in the programs and nonparticipating firms (representing the business- s-usual scenario). These ten chemicals were common to the target lists of both programs. The Great Lakes Basin was used as the region of analysis as it is an area of high industrial activity and shared environmental policy between Canada and the United States. Data were also collected for each firm with regards to the following variables in order to evaluate how such firm characteristics affect both participation in and performance of the two programs: industrial sector; firm size; pollution prevention activities; region; compliance records; and participation in other voluntary programs. The study concluded that, for this sample of firms, the ARET program was shown to be more successful in achieving emission reductions than the standard regulatory system alone. Firms participating in the ARET Program reduced their emissions of the ten substances by 44 percent during the tenure of the program, versus a reduction of 18 percent by non-participating firms. For this sample of participating firms, the criticism that a large proportion of reductions claimed under the program actually took place before the start of the program in 1994 is proven false. In contrast, the 33/50 Program in the United States was not as successful. For this sample, participating facilities reduced their emissions of the ten substances by 49 percent during the tenure of the program versus a 60 percent reduction by non-participating firms (representing achievements made under mandatory regulations alone). Regarding firm characteristics: larger firms were both more likely to participate in and perform better in the ARET case study; firms located in Quebec reduced emissions more than those in Ontario; and no correlation was found between firm compliance records and participation in other voluntary programs and greater emission reductions which may indicate that firms joined the two programs as a way to improve their "green image".

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