Incentivizing Self-Regulation: Federal vs. State-Level Voluntary Programs in US Climate Change Policies


How does program sponsorship influence the design of voluntary programs? Why and how do voluntary programs on climate change sponsored by the state and federal governments in the United States vary in their institutional design? Scholars emphasize the signaling role of voluntary programs to outside stakeholders, and the excludable benefits that induce firms to take on non-trivial costs of joining voluntary programs. Scholars have noted several types of benefits, particularly reputational benefits programs provide, but have not systematically studied why different programs emphasize different types of benefits. We suggest that excludable benefits are likely to take different forms depending on the institutional context in which program sponsors function. We hypothesize that federal programs are likely to emphasize less tangible reputational benefits while state programs are likely to emphasize more tangible benefits, such as access to technical knowledge and capital. Statistical analyses show the odds of a voluntary program emphasizing tangible benefits increases by several folds when the program is sponsored by the state as opposed to federal government.

Full Paper

Hsueh, L., & Prakash, A. (2012). Incentivizing self regulation: Federal vs. state level voluntary programs in US climate change policies. Regulation & Governance6(4), 445-473.