Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Oana Branzei

2nd Supervisor

Adam Fremeth

Joint Supervisor


In August 2011, ConocoPhillips was blamed for an oil spill off of China’s coast in the Bohai Sea. ConocoPhillips, the minority operating partner of a 51%-49% joint-venture (JV) with the China National Overseas Oil Corporation (CNOOC), immediately notified the Chinese government about the spill, but clean-up operations were delayed for weeks. In defending their efforts, ConocoPhillips explained that their joint-venture partner prevented them from containing the spill in a timely manner. This incident, and especially the division of interest and blame among the two partners, highlights the difficulty of coordinating collective action for environmental objectives within JVs.

This dissertation examines whether, when, and why divided corporate ownership affects environmental performance. I focus on hazardous industrial waste known to adversely impact human health to draw attention to the health-related consequences of JV’s environmental outcomes.

In the first essay, I ask whether and when divided ownership influences facilities’ emissions and control of hazardous waste. I further explore whether JV facilities take greater precautions when hazardous waste has perceivably worse human-health consequences by contrasting facilities’ emissions and control of cancerous and non-cancerous (yet hazardous) byproducts. I find robust empirical evidence that joint venture facilities emit far more hazardous waste than their independently owned peers, but owners can and do align their behaviors to address what are perceived as the most detrimental environmental hazards (cancerous byproducts).

In the second essay, I take a closer examination of co-owned operations to explore the mechanisms by which divided ownership influences the recycling and treatment of hazardous waste. I examine JV ownership dispersion, partner-type effects, and coalition heterogeneity and find robust empirical evidence that each of these JV characteristics contribute to variance in pollution control measures. I find that ownership dispersion contributes to the mitigation of non-cancerous hazards through pollution control measures. However, coalition heterogeneity polarizes pollution control based upon contestable harm, undermining pollution control over non-cancerous yet hazardous byproducts and encouraging pollution control for cancerous substances.

Overall, this dissertation demonstrates when co-ownership detracts from environmental performance and broadens theoretical accounts of ownership’s nuanced social sensitivity to hazardous externalities.