Investigating the efficacy of voluntary initiatives for reducing horticultural introductions of invasive species
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The horticultural industry is responsible for approximately half of the invasive plant introductions in North America. To reduce these introductions, voluntary initiatives are preferred over government regulations. This thesis aims to evaluate the effectiveness of two types of voluntary initiatives. At the gardener level, I investigated the effectiveness of alternative species promotion campaigns, called “Grow Me Instead” programs. Adult gardeners visiting the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ontario, as well as customers at two garden centres, participated in a conjoint analysis which measured their preferences for various traits of potential ground cover species. Results showed that gardeners generally prefer plant species having invasive characteristics, suggesting these programs may not be as effective as initially believed. At the retailer level, this study aimed to build upon the work done by Burt and colleagues (2007) to obtain further understanding of the relative strength of internal (ethical motivations) and external (legislation, stakeholder pressures and economic opportunities) factors for motivating participation in voluntary initiatives. Telephone interviews were conducted with 30 industry professionals from southern Ontario to assess their adoption of the St. Louis Voluntary Codes of Conduct. Results found that participation rates of industry professionals in southern Ontario were lower for every specific initiative than those interviewed by Burt et al. (2007). Industry professionals presently experience the most pressure to participate from a sense of personal responsibility and the desire to create a green business image. Pressure was significantly higher from these sources than from pressure from employees. Together these two studies identified several barriers to the efficacy of voluntary initiatives as well as some reasons for optimism. To ensure the success of future voluntary initiatives, efforts must be made to encourage these two groups to work together. Understanding how both retailers and gardeners respond to voluntary initiatives will assist in the development of more effective programs and lead to fewer horticultural invasive species introductions in the future.