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Hardcover | Out of Print | 354 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 1 chart, 8 graphs, 18 tables | September 2009 | ISBN: 9780262162500
Paperback | $6.75 Short | £5.95 | 354 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 1 chart, 8 graphs, 18 tables | September 2009 | ISBN: 9780262662048
eBook | $20.00 Short | September 2009 | ISBN: 9780262259965
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Voluntary Programs

A Club Theory Perspective


The recent growth of voluntary programs has attracted the attention of policymakers, nongovernmental organizations, and scholars. Thousands of firms around the world participate in these programs, in which members agree to undertake socially beneficial actions that go beyond the requirements of government regulations, such as following labor codes in the apparel industry, adhering to international accounting standards, and adopting internal environmental management systems. This book analyzes the efficacy of a variety of voluntary programs using a club theory, political-economy framework. It examines how programs’ design influences their effectiveness as policy tools. It finds that voluntary programs have achieved uneven success because of their varying standards and enforcement procedures.

The club theory framework views voluntary programs as institutions that create incentives for firms to incur the costs of taking progressive action beyond what is required by law in exchange for benefits that nonmembers do not enjoy (such as enhanced standing with stakeholders). Voluntary Programs develops this theoretical framework and applies it to voluntary programs sponsored by industry associations, governments, and nongovernmental organizations, organized around policy issues such as “blood diamonds,” shipping, sweatshops, and the environment. The wide diversity of cases—across sectors, sponsoring organizations, and objectives—provides valuable applications of the club framework, generates new insights for future research, and offers practical guidance for designing effective programs.

Contributors: David P. Baron, Tim Bartley, Tim Büthe, Cary Coglianese, Elizabeth R. DeSombre, Daniel W. Drezner, Daniel Fiorino, Mary Kay Gugerty, Virginia Haufler, Matthew J. Kotchen, Mimi Lu, Jennifer Nash, Matthew Potoski, Aseem Prakash, Klaas van ‘t Veld

About the Editors

Matthew Potoski is Associate Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University and coauthor (with Aseem Prakash) of The Voluntary Environmentalists: Green Clubs, ISO 14001, and Voluntary Environmental Regulations.

Aseem Prakash is Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington, Seattle, and coauthor (with Matthew Potoski) of The Voluntary Environmentalists: Green Clubs, ISO 14001, and Voluntary Environmental Regulations.


“A good theoretical foundation backed up with strong empirical evidence makes Voluntary Programs an outstanding volume for the social sciences. I strongly recommend it.”
Elinor Ostrom, Co-Director, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University
Voluntary Programs identifies two key problems with arrangements to induce firms to be socially responsible: incentives to join and dangers of shirking. It emphasizes the value to participants, under scarce-information conditions, of reputations held in common, and explores the strengths and weaknesses of club theory. This well-designed and well-integrated volume makes significant empirical as well as theoretical contributions to its subject.”
Robert O. Keohane, Professor of International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University