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Thomas Lyon

University of Michigan

Based in

United States
North America

Thomas P. Lyon holds the Dow Chair of Sustainable Science, Technology and Commerce at the University of Michigan, with appointments in both the Ross School of Business and the School of Environment and Sustainability. He is President of the Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability (ARCS), and Faculty Director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan. He earned his BSE from Princeton University, and MS and PhD degrees from Stanford University. Professor Lyon is a leader in using economic analysis to understand corporate sustainability strategy and its interplay with public policy, NGOs, and consumer demands. His book Corporate Environmentalism and Public Policy, published by Cambridge University Press, was the first rigorous economic analysis of this increasingly important topic. His article “CSR Needs CPR: Corporate Sustainability and Politics” coined the term Corporate Political Responsibility and won California Management Review’s award for Best Article in 2019.

Country(ies) of Specialty

United States

Focus areas of expertise

Greenwashing Climate policy and politics Net Zero Social movements

How to Connect



The Importance of Corporate Political Responsibility,” (with Andrew Winston and Elizabeth Doty), Sloan Management Review, October 24, 2022.

Merchants of Doubt: Corporate Political Influence when NGO Credibility is Uncertain,” (with Mireille Chiroleu-Assouline), Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, 2020, 29(2): 439-461.

“Understanding the Role of the Corporation in Sustainability Transitions,” (with Magali Delmas and John W. Maxwell), Organization & Environment, 2019, 32(2): 87-97.

“A Theory of Multi-Tier Ecolabel Competition,” (with Carolyn Fischer), Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, May 2019, 6(3): 461-501.

    CSR Needs CPR: Corporate Sustainability and Politics,” (with Magali Delmas, John W. Maxwell, Tima Bansal, Mireille Chiroleu-Assouline, Patricia Crifo, Rodolphe Durand, Jean-Pascal Gond, Andrew King, Michael Lenox, Michael Toffel, David Vogel, and Frank Wijen), California Management Review, 2018, 60(4): 5-24.

  • Selected as Best Article of 2019 in California Management Review.

“Salience Games: Private Politics when Public Attention is Limited,” (with Anthony Heyes and Steve Martin), Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 2018, 88: 396-410.

     “Voluntary Cleanup Programs for Brownfield Sites: A Theoretical Analysis,” (with Allen Blackman, Kris Wernstedt and Haitao Yin), Environmental and Resource Economics, 2018, 70(2): 297-322.

  The Drivers and Impacts of Renewable Portfolio Standards,” Annual Review of Resource Economics, 2016, 8: 141-155.

“Optimizing Eco-Efficiency across the Procurement Portfolio,” (with Rylie E.O. Pelton, Mo Li, and Timothy M. Smith), Environmental Science & Technology, 2016, 50(11): 5908-5918.

“Self-Regulation and Regulatory Flexibility: Why Firms May be Reluctant to Signal Green,” (with John W. Maxwell), in John M. De Figueiredo , Michael Lenox , Felix Oberholzer-Gee, Richard G. Vanden Bergh (eds.) Strategy Beyond Markets (Advances in Strategic Management, Volume 34) Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2016, 34: 301 – 329.

“The Means and End of Greenwash,” (with A. Wren Montgomery), Organization and Environment, 2015, 28(2): 223–249.

“Environmental Disclosure: Evidence from Newsweek’s Green Companies Rankings,” (with Jay P. Shimshack), Business and Society, 2015, 54(5): 632-675.

Greenwash vs. Brownwash: Exaggeration and Undue Modesty in Corporate Sustainability Disclosure,” (with Eun-Hee Kim), Organization Science, 2014, 26: 705-723.

“Corporate Environmental Strategies in Emerging Economies,” (with Dietrich Earnhart and Madhu Khanna), Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, 2014, 8: 164-185.

     “Competing Environmental Labels,” (with Carolyn Fischer), Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, Fall 2014, v. 23, n. 3, pp. 692-716.

“Tweetjacked: The Impact of Social Media on Corporate Greenwash,” (with Allison W. Montgomery), Journal of Business Ethics, 2013, 118: 747-757.

“How Do Shareholders Respond to Sustainability Awards?: Evidence from China,” (lead article, with Yao Lu, Xinzheng Shi, and Qie Yin), Ecological Economics, 2013, 94: 1-8.

     “Voluntary Environmental Agreements in Developing Countries: The Colombian Experience,” (with Allen Blackman, Eduardo Uribe, and Bart van Hoof), Policy Sciences, 2013, 46: 335–385.

     “Cleaner Production in Small Firms Taking Part in Mexico´s Sustainable Supplier Program,” (with Bart van Hoof), Journal of Cleaner Production, 2013, 41: 270-282.

“Revitalizing Underperforming and Contaminated Land through Voluntary Action:  Perspectives from U.S. Voluntary Cleanup Programs,” (with Kris Wernstedt, Allen Blackman, and Kelly Novak), Land Use Policy, 2013, 31: 545-556.

Promoting Global CCS RDD&D by Stronger U.S.–China Collaboration,” (with Jia-Hai Yuan), Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 2012, 16: 6746-6769.

“Capture or Contract? Evidence from the Early Years of Electric Utility Regulation,” (with Nathan Wilson), Journal of Regulatory Economics, 2012, 40: 225-241.

“Fragmenting Forests: The Double Edge of Effective Forest Monitoring,” (with Andrew R. Bell, Rick L. Riolo, Jacqueline M. Doremus, Daniel G. Brown, John Vandermeer, and Arun Agrawal), Environmental Science and Policy, 2012, 16: 20-30.

“Lurching towards Markets for Power: China’s Electricity Policy 1985-2007,” (with Xiaoli Zhao and Cui Song), Applied Energy, 2012, 94: 148-155.

“Why do Electricity Utilities Cooperate with Coal Suppliers? A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis from China,” (with Xiaoli Zhao, Feng Wang, and Cui Song.) Energy Policy 46 (2012): 520-529.

Is “Smart Charging” Policy for Electric Vehicles Worthwhile?,” Energy Policy, (with Mark Michelin, Arie Jongejan, and Thomas Leahy), 2012, 41: 259–268.

       “Creating a Plug-In Electric Vehicle Cluster in Michigan: Prospects and Policy Options,” (with Russell Baruffi), Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review, 2011, 18: 303-347.

  When Does Institutional Activism Increase Shareholder Value?: The Carbon Disclosure Project,” (with Eun-Hee Kim), The BE Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, 2011. Volume 11(1) (Contributions), Article 50.

    “Does Public Disclosure Reduce Pollution? Evidence from India’s Pulp and Paper Industry,” (with Allen Blackman, Urvashi Narain, and Nicholas Powers), Environmental and Resource Economics, 2011, 50: 131-155.

  Strategic Environmental Disclosure: Evidence from the DOE’s Voluntary Greenhouse Gas Registry,” (with Eun-Hee Kim), Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 2011, 61: 311–326.

Greenwash: Corporate Environmental Disclosure under Threat of Audit,” (lead article, with John W. Maxwell), Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, 2011, 20: 3-41.

    “What Drives Participation in State Voluntary Cleanup Programs?  Evidence from Oregon,” (with Allen Blackman, Sarah Darley, and Kris Wernstedt).  Land Economics, 2010, 86: 785–799.

    Why Do States Adopt Renewable Portfolio Standards? An Empirical Investigation,” (with Haitao Yin), The Energy Journal, 2010, 31: 131-155. 

    “Introduction to the Special Issue on Management Strategy and the Environment,” Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, 2009, 18: 1-6.

    “Corporate Social Responsibility and the Environment: A Theoretical Perspective,” (with John W. Maxwell), Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, 2008, 2: 240-260.

Reprinted in Abigail McWilliams, editor, The Economics of Corporate Social Responsibility, Edgar Elgar Press, 2014.

    “Environmental Public Voluntary Programs Reconsidered,” (with John W. Maxwell), Policy Studies Journal, 2007, 35: 723-750.

Reprinted in Peter de Leon and Jorge Rivera, editors, Voluntary Environmental Programs: A Policy Perspective, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, December 2009.

     “Voluntary Environmental Agreements when Regulatory Capacity is Weak,” (with Allen Blackman and Nicholas Sisto), Comparative Economic Studies, 2006, 48: 682-702.

     “Astroturf: Interest Group Lobbying and Corporate Strategy,” (lead article, with John W. Maxwell), Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, December 2004, 13(4), pp. 561-598.

     “Self-Regulation, Taxation, and Public Voluntary Environmental Agreements,” (with John W. Maxwell), Journal of Public Economics, v. 87, August 2003, pp. 1453-1486.

“Self-Regulation and Social Welfare: The Political Economy of Corporate Environmentalism,” (with Steven C. Hackett and John W. Maxwell), Journal of Law and Economics, v. 43, no. 2, October 2000, pp. 583-618.

Reprinted in The Political Economy of Regulation, Edward Elgar Press, 2007 (Thomas P. Lyon, editor);

Reprinted in The Economics of Corporate Social Responsibility, Edward Elgar Press, 2014 (Abagail McWilliams, editor);

Reprinted in Corporate Sustainability, Sage Major Works Series, 2014 (Thomas P. Lyon, Daniel Diermeier, and Glen Dowell, editors).

“Quality Leadership when Regulatory Standards are Forthcoming,” (with Stefan Lutz and John W. Maxwell), Journal of Industrial Economics, v. 48, no. 3, September 2000, pp. 331-348.