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Racing to the Bottom? Trade, Environmental Governance, and ISO 14001


  • Previous versions of this article were presented at University of British Columbia, Boston University, Arizona State University, Aston University, the annual conferences of the American Political Science Association, the Midwest Political Science Association, and the Association of Policy Analysis and Management. We thank Christopher Adolph, John Ahlquist, Liliana Andonova, Werner Antweiler, Patrick Brandt, Fred Cutler, Subhrajit Guhathakurta, Reiner Grundmann, Kathy Harrison, George Hoberg, David Jacobson, Marc Levy, Scott Long, Bob Lowry, Erik Lundsgaarde, Theresa Squatrito, George Thomas, Yves Tiberghien, Mike Ward, Carolyn Warner, the AJPS editors, and the AJPS reviewers for their input. Aseem Prakash acknowledges support from University of Washington's Royalty Research Fund. Matthew Potoski acknowledges financial support from the Iowa State University Institute of Science and Society and the Iowa State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Sarah Edrington, Joseph Haley, Melissa Homrig, Dan Murray, and Jason Stonerook provided excellent research assistance.

Aseem Prakash is associate professor of political science, University of Washington, Gowen Hall 39, Box 353530, Seattle, WA 98195 ( Matthew Potoski is associate professor of political science, Iowa State University, 519 Ross Hall, Ames, IA, 50010 (


Globalization critics argue that international trade spurs a race to the bottom among national environmental standards. ISO 14001 is the most widely adopted voluntary environmental regulation which encourages firms to take environmental action beyond what domestic government regulations require. Drawing on a panel study of 108 countries over seven years, we investigate conditions under which trade linkages can encourage ISO 14001 adoption, thereby countering environmental races to the bottom. We find that trade linkages encourage ISO 14001 adoption if countries' major export markets have adopted this voluntary regulation.