The question of sustainability has been important for plastics firms and their industry associations for decades, however there has not been much social science scholarship specifically exploring how plastics firms, or their industry associations, perform sustainably. This project uses 2016 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data, financial data from Hoovers, and data on industry associations to answer questions about the plastics firm and industry association characteristics most associated with toxic emissions.
After a theoretical exploration of sustainability in Chapter 2, multilevel regressions are conducted in Chapter 3 demonstrating that plastics firm financial and structural variables (Revenue, Risky Firm Credit, Subsidiary Levels, and Facility Employees) are significantly associated with increases of Planned Toxic Emissions. Specifically, both Planned and Fugitive Emissions increase as a function of firm Revenue and Subsidiary Layers. In addition, a cubic function of Facility Employees demonstrates increases in Planned and Fugitive Emissions per employee for smaller facilities, and decreases per employee for larger facilities. These findings indicate that the size, wealth, and structure of plastics firms affect how sustainability is practiced.
Chapter 4 explores what is currently known in the social sciences about industry associations and highlights the role they play as knowledge collectivities in terms of sustainability. Industry association variables on membership, the amount of sustainability information on their websites, and whether the association has a sustainability committee are added to the previous multilevel regression models. Industry association membership is associated with higher Planned Emissions and lower Fugitive Emissions, firms that are members of industry associations with high sustainability rhetoric tend to have lower emissions, while member firms of industry associations with sustainability committees tend to have higher emissions. So, industry association membership appears to be associated with effects on member firm emissions, although not always in predicted ways.
This project furthers the study of organizations and manufacturing by focusing on plastics, an important US manufacturing industry, by looking at both Planned and Fugitive Emissions, and by dealing with data for both publicly and privately owned organizations, including very large versus very small organizations.