Does Water Scarcity Affect Environmental Performance? Evidence from Manufacturing Facilities in Texas

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Abstract

It is well known that manufacturing operations can affect the environment, but hardly any research explores whether the natural environment shapes manufacturing operations. Specifically, we investigate whether water scarcity, which results from environmental conditions, influences manufacturing firms to lower their toxic releases to the environment. We created a data set that spans 2000–2016 and includes details on the toxic emissions of 3,092 manufacturing facilities in Texas. Additionally, our data set includes measures of the water scarcity experienced by these facilities. Our econometric analysis shows that manufacturing facilities reduce their toxic releases into the environment when they have experienced drought conditions in the previous year. We examine facilities that release toxics to water as well as facilities with no toxic releases to water. We find that the reduction in total releases (to all media) is driven mainly by those facilities that release toxic chemicals to water. Further investigation at a more granular level indicates that water scarcity compels manufacturing facilities to lower their toxic releases into media other than water (i.e., land or air). The impact of water scarcity on toxic releases to water is more nuanced. A full-sample analysis fails to link water scarcity to lower toxic releases to water, but a further breakdown shows that manufacturing facilities in counties with a higher incidence of drought do lower their toxic releases to water. We also find that facilities that release toxics to water undertake more technical and input modifications to their manufacturing processes when they face water scarcity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2785-2805
Number of pages21
JournalManagement Science
Volume68
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research

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