Completed NRP 73 research project: Voluntary corporate environmental initiatives

If the policy design is inclusive, citizens are willing to support policies providing fewer regulatory competences to the government.

Thomas Bernauer and his team from ETH Zurich examined the question: “How do perceptions of voluntary environmental action by the private sector and policy design affect public support for policies to facilitate a green economy?”. The aim of the research is to improve understanding of how citizens form their opinions, particularly with regard to shaping policy decisions and the role of voluntary business initiatives. The focus is on synergies and political risks in combining private and public sector initiatives in the green economy.

At the 4th programme conference, Dennis Kolcava presented findings of his scientific publication “Citizen preferences on private-public co-regulation in environmental governance: Evidence from Switzerland”. In general, citizens are willing to endow policy-makers with quite substantial political mandates, including public reporting and early regulatory triggers. However, citizens also indicate a distaste for isolated decision-making and prefer the policy design process to be more inclusive. Moreover, the inclusiveness of the design process and the extent of the government mandate appear to be substitutes. In other words, citizens are willing to support less stringent government mandates if the design process is inclusive.

In terms of corporate behavior, the research team found that substantive efforts by the private sector can reduce public support for regulation, but that public support is unlikely to change if companies are accused of greenwashing. Furthermore, citizens are also in support of political rewards for firms that are engaging in voluntary environmental action.

Until the end of the year 2021, the research team will implement a multi-country public opinion survey on supply chain regulation to assess to what extent the research is applicable beyond the Swiss border. Further questions will be whether demands for government intervention in supply chains result from a backlash against economic globalization, a demand for domestic consumer protection or moral considerations.

Peer-reviewed publications of the research project:

Further information on this content



Prof. Dr. Thomas Bernauer Institute of Science, Technology and Policy, ETH Zürich Universitätsstrasse 41 8092 Zürich +41 44 632 6771

Dennis Kolcava ETH Zürich
Center for Comparative and International Studies (CIS)
+41 44 632 02 64