Expanding the multiple streams framework to explain the formation of diverse voluntary programs: evidence from US toxic chemical use policy

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    This article demonstrates the explanatory power of an expanded policy stream, as part of Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Framework. Product substitutes, corporate social responsibility, the global economy, and the market maverick rationalize the incentives under which regulators, consumers, businesses, and environmental NGOs interact to explain the formation of two landmark voluntary programs on mercury and arsenic use, respectively. Arsenic and mercury are ranked first and third, respectively, on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s priority list of hazardous substances. In both cases, the existence of a product substitute that performed on par with the original product but generated less negative environmental impact motivated the private sector to go beyond compliance in their environmental management. Notwithstanding, the push and pull of variables in the problem, politics, and policy streams, and the interplay of diverse actors led to the emergence of diverse forms of voluntary programs. In the mercury case, an industry association steered the technocratic process of the chlor-alkali industry’s voluntary stewardship program, which led to marginal reductions in toxic chemical use, as part of the global phase-out of mercury already under way. By contrast, in the arsenic case, an environmental activist campaign successfully compelled the pressure-treated wood industry to concede to a voluntary cancelation of chromated copper arsenate, an arsenic compound, in residential uses. Subsequently, arsenic use fell to levels not seen since the 1920s. In both cases, strong coalition building—the former by businesses and the latter by environmental NGOs—combined with a fragmented or nonexistent opposing side shaped the final form of each voluntary program.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)111-123
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Environmental Studies and Sciences
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


    • Agenda setting
    • Businesses
    • Environmental nongovernmental organizations
    • Multiple streams
    • Policy outcomes
    • Policy processes
    • Regulators
    • Toxic chemical use
    • Toxic chemical use policy
    • Toxic chemicals
    • Voluntary agreements
    • Voluntary programs

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • General Environmental Science


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