From 1997 to 2012, 114 Japanese industry associations implemented voluntary action plans, which are not enforced by laws or regulations, to reduce carbon emissions. This paper investigates whether the establishment of these voluntary action plans by industry associations contributed to the adoption of a carbon emissions target at the firm level within the associations. Using a survey of approximately 1000 firms in Japan, this paper finds that small and medium-sized firms in sectors with voluntary action plans were 2-4 times more likely to establish their own carbon emissions targets than were firms belonging to industry associations without voluntary action plans. In contrast, the paper finds that voluntary action plans did not affect the establishment of emissions targets among firms with more than 3000 employees. This result is consistent with the survey responses, which found that periodic follow-ups under a voluntary action plan helped small firms to obtain important pieces of information and that industry associations played an important role in this process. In general, small firms have relatively large potential for energy saving, but the lack of information prevents its realization. The results confirm the importance of voluntary action plans in removing the information barriers of relatively small firms and encouraging them to implement carbon emissions targets.
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