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Hardcover | $90.00 X | £74.95 | 408 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 33 b&w illus. | August 2017 | ISBN: 9780262036429
Paperback | $30.00 Short | £24.95 | 408 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 33 b&w illus. | August 2017 | ISBN: 9780262534901
eBook | $21.00 Short | August 2017 | ISBN: 9780262340977
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Green Grades

Can Information Save the Earth?


Consumers are confronted with a confusing array of environmental ratings on products that range from refrigerators to shampoos. Is the information that these ratings represent trustworthy, accurate, or even relevant to environmental concerns? “Information optimists” believe that these “green grades” can play an important role in saving the planet. “Information pessimists” consider them a distraction from pursuing legislative and regulatory actions. In this book, Graham Bullock offers a comprehensive assessment and analysis of the effectiveness and validity of such environmental ratings as ENERGY STAR, USDA Organic, the Forest Stewardship Council, LEED, and the Toxic 100 Air Polluters Index.

Bullock stakes out a position as an “information realist,” acknowledging both the contributions and the limitations of these initiatives. Drawing on interviews, case studies, and an original dataset of 245 environmental ratings and certifications, he examines what he calls the information value chain of green grades: organizational associations, content, methods, interfaces, and outcomes. He explores the relevance of the information to the issues; the legitimacy and accountability of sponsoring or cooperating organizations; the reliability of methods used to develop the information; the prominence and intelligibility of communication to the public; and the effects and effectiveness of the information after it emerges from the value chain. Bullock’s analysis offers a realistic appraisal of the role of information-based environmental governance—its benefits and shortcomings—and its relation to other governance strategies.

About the Author

Graham Bullock is Associate Professor in the Departments of Political Science and Environmental Studies at Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina. He is a cofounder of GoodGuide, an online tool that provides environmental, social, and health information about products and companies.


Green Grades provides a deeply thoughtful assessment of the potential for ratings, rankings, and labels to help ‘move the needle’ on sustainability. It also points to ways in which current best practices can be improved to provide greater impact. The author's unique experience as a social entrepreneur as well as a professor makes this a valuable read, regardless of whether you are a consumer seeking to use your spending to make a difference, an entrepreneur in the environmental information space, or a researcher seeking to understand the impacts of these important new tools.”
Tom Lyon, Dow Chair of Sustainable Science, Technology and Policy, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan
“A profoundly important book for anyone who cares about not only the scholarship, but also the practice, of environmental stewardship. Bullock nicely weaves a rigorous theoretical framework with one of the most advanced empirical accounts of ‘information value chain’ approaches to ever be produced. Required reading for practitioners and scholars who care about shepherding meaningful and long-lasting solutions for today’s environmental challenges.”
Benjamin Cashore, Professor, Environmental Governance and Political Science, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University