Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Anne J. Hacker


Measures imposed on the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP) have compelled the provincial agency in Ontario, Canada, to seek policy alternatives in carrying out its enforcement duties. Addressing this problem is important to the public, whose welfare is paramount, and to MECP managers, who must contend with the budget cuts. Smith’s social comparison theory provided the framework for this qualitative research study, in which the perceptions of MECP policy advisors regarding the applicability of social comparison as a policy tool to influence private sector firms to practice corporate environmental responsibility (CER) was explored in relation to air emissions policy. Data were extracted through semistructured interviews with a purposeful sample of nine participants. The data were manually analyzed using attribute, structural, and pattern coding techniques. The findings stipulate that for-profit firms become environmentally proactive due to societal and market pressures, industry norms, financial incentives, future potential strict regulations, risk management, technological advancement, and environmental certifications. Furthermore, the applicability of a social comparison policy would depend on the types of emissions and firms being compared, implemental scale of the policy, the level of public interest on the emissions, accountability and dependability of the submitted information to prevent misleading reporting, also known as greenwashing, and governmental support for firms at the bottom of the ranking to avoid corporate apathy and defeatism. Social change implications may be the promotion of broader CER practices in the corporate community by policymakers, improvement of administrative efficiencies, and safeguarding of public interest.