Green certification pathways: The roles of public goods, private goods, and certification schemes
Flowers, Mallory Elise
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation examines evidence on the effectiveness of voluntary certification programs in the built environment. Drawing on unique data from buildings certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) label, the technologies adopted toward certification are examined. Analysis reveals strengths and weaknesses of the program design, including apparent promotion of energy and water efficiency, but limited promotion of public good provision. These findings motivate extensive theoretical development around the valuation of environmental products: traditional economic signaling perspectives are argued to be of little value in understanding “noisy” signals of environmental quality. Drawing on perspectives from organizational theory and strategic management, a framework for noisy signals is developed, and applied to three empirical questions. First, the extent to which noisy signals are strategically adopted is examined by assessing patterns in technology adoption toward green building certification. Second, the evolving distribution of LEED scores is assessed against a dynamic imputed counterfactual to reveal the extent to which the certification fosters a “Race to the Top.” Here, signaling and learning are posited as a mechanism for such a “Race,” in a critique of past theory. Finally, the shift in practices contributing from public goods to private gains is evaluated over time, calling to question how we should measure the success of environmental programs which aim to promote improvements with regard to myriad concerns. In sum, this work contributes to our understanding of corporate sustainability, certification programs, signaling theory, and technology learning.