An Integrated Theory of Corporate Environmental Compliance and Overcompliance

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Prior research on corporate environmental behavior has produced myriad factors that explain offending and overcompliance, yet the literature lacks cohesion and would benefit from disentangling corporate- and individual-level explanations. In this study, a cross-level integrated theory of corporate environmental behavior uses Gunningham et al’s. (2003) license framework and Paternoster and Simpson’s (1993; 1996) rational choice theory of corporate crime to portray how individuals within corporations decide to offend or to overcomply with environmental regulations while accounting for the organizational context. Specifically, external pressures (legal, social, and economic) on the corporation, plus internal corporate policies and culture, affect individual-level cost-benefit analyses. In turn, these cost-benefit calculations impact the behavioral decisions made by corporate managers. Four sets of hypotheses based on this integration are tested using an environmental vignette survey of individuals. The results provide mixed support for the integrated theory. It is also noted that predictors of environmental offending are different from those predicting overcompliance. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

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