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Does Government-Led Publicity Enhance Corporate Green Behavior? Empirical Evidence from Green Xuanguan in China

Centre for Energy, Environment & Economy Research, Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou 450001, China
School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100083, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2022, 14(6), 3181;
Submission received: 8 February 2022 / Revised: 1 March 2022 / Accepted: 4 March 2022 / Published: 8 March 2022


Promoting green behavior among corporations is essential to the green transition of industrial sectors in China. There is a unique government-led green publicity institution, ‘Xuanguan‘, that expects to accelerate the green idea and policy spread top-down in the economic system in China. However, few studies discussed its role in formulating corporate green behavior. By constructing an integrated model of Government-led publicity-Internal and external perception-Corporate green behavior, this paper explored the effect of government-led green publicity on corporate green behavior, based on the survey data of 199 industrial manufacturing corporations in Henan Province, China. A structural equation model (SEM) was adopted to detect the influence and influential path. The results found that government-led green publicity could positively enhance green behavior via improving the corporate internal perception of risk and opportunity and improving the corporate perception of external environment actors. The heterogeneity tests showed that type of publicity channels, corporate ownership, and corporate scale made different effects on the results. Further analysis proved that government-led publicity could enhance the function of formal environmental regulation. It implies that government-led publicity can be a good compensation for formal regulations and stimulate green behavior. This paper demonstrates a new factor of enhancing corporate behavior and contributed new evidence of China’s green development story.

1. Introduction

Corporations, as the tiny units of an economy, play vital roles in the economic development of a country now. The top-down values or nationwide policies cannot be adopted if not being accepted by corporations. Green development became an essential idea of economic growth after president Xi came to power in China. In addressing the climate change and promoting low-carbon transformation in China, both central and local governments have established different regulations and incentive policies. During the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016–2020), a systematic and rigorous green transformation plan was implemented in the industrial sector. Within a short time, it is estimated that the GDP of the energy conservation and environmental protection industry was up to about USD 1.1 trillion by the end of 2020. In total, 468 new industrial standards for energy conservation and green development were formulated and implemented, and 2121 green factories and 171 green industrial parks were built up [1]. Due to the green production campaign from 2016 to 2019, carbon dioxide emissions per unit of industrial added value decreased by 18%, making a significant contribution to addressing climate change [2].
Typically, researchers attribute such a result to the completed formal regulations in the perspective of environmental regulation theory [3,4]. Others think it is the outcome of good compliance in the perspective of regulatory compliance theory [5,6]. Few identify the gap between regulations and behavior feedback. Cognitive-Behavioral Theory was introduced to explore the influential factors of corporate green behavior in recent years [7,8,9]. It gives a broad idea of understanding the change of individual behavior, such as the behavior chain of information/knowledge–attitude/perception–behavior. In western countries, the government always depends on information disclosure within the administrative system to inform corporations, such as digital government construction. Corporations will obtain the information of government policies through various information channels on their own’s initiative. The Nudge Theory proposed by Thaler and Sunstein [10] developed the idea of ‘soft paternalism’, pointing out that the government can provide information related to its intended goals through information disclosure, and then influence the belief of people rather than directly forcing them to change their choices. Liberal scholars oppose any form of paternalistic management and believe that governmental policy information publicity is mainly carried out by improving the level of government informatization, government transparency, and information disclosure. It should not deprive the right of free choice of corporations [11]. However, by observing policy implementation in China, we found a new way to convey the government’s philosophy: Government-led publicity.
Government-led publicity (‘Xuanguan’ 宣贯), as an informal institution to release policy information, is absolutely an innovative policy instrument in China. It expects to help different policy-targeted actors to reach a consensus as soon. Since only subordinate government units, corporations, and market entities are fully informed of superior values, the policies can be implemented and their goals can be achieved. Figure 1 illustrates a typical structure of the government system and the role of Xuanguan.
In the field of corporate management, publicity consists of inside and outside types. To the public, enterprises will launch a series of publicity activities to inform the outside world of their values, image, or belief [12,13]. To their employers, corporations often publicize their rules, regulations, or values via formal training, seminars, or special corporate conference to reach a consensus within the organization [14]. The government-led publicity has a similar function to the latter. However, since it is held by the government, it always plays a dual role of administrative information and political signal. It has special institutional arrangements such as financial support, a clear schedule, and specific leadership. It is different from propaganda institutes (such as the Publicity Department of China) in the governance system. The government-led policy publicity discussed here is always instructed by the administrative department. Such is the case in this paper, in which the government-led green policy publicity is held by the Department of Industry and Information Technology (IIT) in Henan, one of 34 provinces in China. The administrative department corporations with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), named in Green Production Alliance, to organize the local corporations to participate in publicity activities. The way of publicity is diverse by assisting with new technologies and media sometimes. The contents are not only standards, regulations, or incentive policies, but also excellent practice and advanced technology cases among the industry. Since it targets the industrial sectors, it can be widely disseminated in the industry and more recognized than general publicity. In China, the top-down campaign of government-led publicity in industrial green transition will continue during the next Five-Year Plan period. The 14th Five-Year Industrial Green Development Plan issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China in November 2021 mentioned that it would carry out publicity activities such as the National Energy Conservation Publicity Week, National Low-Carbon Day, and China Water Week [1]. So, it is of significance to explore whether and how government-led green publicity affects green development empirically.
By combing the theories of organizational behavior and cognitive psychology and following the classical theoretical framework of information–perception–behavior [15,16], this study takes the corporate organization as the main object of observation to explore whether and to what extent the government-led green publicity impacts corporate green behavior. The main purpose of this research is to summarize the characteristics and mechanism of government-led publicity, to provide reference experience of Xuanguan for other developing countries that are implementing green development strategies. Consensus is the fundamental purpose of government-led publicity, but it cannot be measured directly. Since the organizational behavior claims the organization can be influenced by both internal and external environment factors [16,17,18], several studies have explored both internal and external factors of corporate behavior [19,20]. However, most of them took perception as an internal factor and objective environment as an external factor separately [21,22,23,24]. For instance, in the study of the green transformation of corporations, the author regarded human capital, financing ability, and technological innovation as internal factors, while government behavior and environmental regulation as external factors [22]. In the study of green technology innovation behavior, researchers explored the impact of external environmental regulation on green technology innovation behavior and considered green technology innovation willingness as an intermediary role [23]. In other research on household energy-saving behavior, the author regarded individual objective and subjective factors as internal factors, while policies and regulations as external factors [25]. Here, we argue that perception of the external environment, that is subjective environment factors through the eyes of corporations, are different from the traditional external factors. If the government-led publicity enhances the perceived green intention of corporations themselves and stakeholders related to corporations, it means the publicity makes effects on consensus. Therefore, this paper innovatively investigates the perception change of internal executives, and perceived perception change of external territorial governments and competitors in the perspective of corporations, to detect how Xuanguan can make effects in the transmission path of the information–perception–behavior chain. It not only gives new evidence of corporate green behavior research but also a new factor of government-led publicity, which reveals a new story of China’s green development.
Through questionnaire survey and structural equation model (SEM) analysis, this study determines the critical path of government-led green publicity affecting the green behavior of corporations. The rest of the study is structured as follows, the second part introduces the literature and theoretical model, and the third part introduces the research design, including data and method. The fourth part carries on the empirical analysis and presents the calculation result; the fifth part and the sixth part make the discussion and conclusion, respectively.

2. Literatures and Theoretical Model

2.1. Informative Publicity and Corporate Behavior

Green behavior was largely discussed in the literature on corporate performance [26,27,28,29,30,31], social responsibility, and corporate sustainability [32,33,34,35]. Green actions include green product design [36,37], green production management [38,39,40], green brand promotion [41,42,43], and so on. Referenced to previous research, the green behavior in this paper is involved in green technology innovation at the front end of production, green production process during production, and green marketing after production. Exploring the effect of publicity on individual behavior is a hot topic in recent green development. Some studies suggested that policy publicity promotes behavior change [44,45,46]. In the impact of energy consumption research, scholars found energy information provision can effectively change energy consumption behavior change [44]. In addition, Zhang et al. [45] found that water publicity is beneficial to change citizens’ water-saving behavior. Peng et al. [46] found that publicity and education had the most significant impact on garbage sorting behavior. While others argue that publicity has limited effects because there was always an intention/perception/attitude-behavior gap [8,47,48,49]. Zhang et al. [8] found that low-carbon knowledge publicity did enhance the energy-saving attitudes and intention, but it could not make significant effects on household energy savings because of the intention-behavior gap. Wang et al. [48] found that information publicity cannot directly affect residents’ behavioral intentions, but indirectly affects residents’ behavioral intentions through personal norms and recycling attitudes. Ma et al. [47] found that environmental values played a mediating role when publicity and education affected green consumption behavior. Busch et al. [50] found that attitudes towards economic growth can influence business management awareness, thereby promoting behavioral change. In corporate green development, research proved the significant relationship between perception of governmental policies and corporate green behavior [22,51]. Chu et al. [51] found that the government can enhance the participation of entrepreneurs in green entrepreneurial behavior by improving the perceived usefulness and ease of use of public policies. Zhai et al. [22] found that government behavior is an important booster for the green transformation of manufacturing. However, they stated the role of formal regulations established by governments, such as legislation, contract award, incentives, and so on [52,53,54,55]. Educational programs and informative campaigns are essential to pro-environmental behavior among corporations [56]. Government-led publicity, ‘Xuanguan’, defined by this paper is a series of policy publicity activities organized by an upper-class administrative department and taken part in by the territorial governments, industrial associations, and corporations. Different from the previous “knowledge publicity” or “policy publicity”, it is not only an information transmission of regulations but also a communicating platform, and to some extent, it also has an obvious political signal and coercive force, which can strengthen subjective norms, and at the same time narrow down or change the gap between intention/perception/attitude and behavior, because it can help upper-class government, local government, other market forces, and corporations to reach a consensus within a short time.
The theory of planned behavior (TPB) proposed by Ajzen [15] in the psychological area was widely adopted as a fundamental framework of behavior change study. Zhang et al. [23] applied TPB to study how environmental regulation affects green technology innovation behavior through green innovation willingness. Xu et al. [57] applied TPB to study the relationship between perceived behavioral control, behavioral intentions, and energy-saving behaviors. Zhang et al. [58] also applied this theory to study the relationship between employee perception, employee attitude, and employee behavior in nuclear power plants. The framework of publicity (information)–intention/perception–behavior has been appropriately modified by many documents according to their research problems and logic [48,59,60,61,62]. Wang et al. [63] combined TPB with the norm activation model (NAM) to study the effect of information publicity on the behavioral intention of residents’ e-waste recycling. Mucinhato et al. [59] applied the extended theory of planned behavior to study the influencing factors of household food mishandling during the COVID-19. Tama et al. [60] applied the extended theory of planned behavior to study the influencing factors of farmers’ willingness to protect agriculture. Here, we constructed an integrated model of Government-led publicity–Corporate Perceived intention–Corporate behavior (Figure 2) following the basic rule. As the organization theory states the importance of environmental factors’ influence on organization behavior, scholars have taken environmental factors into consideration. He et al. [55] found that the pressure from government environmental regulation, consumers, and shareholders has a significant positive driving effect on corporate environmental behavior. Lin and Ho [64] found that the uncertainty of the external environment will affect Medium-Size Enterprises to adopt green practices. Chang et al. [65] found that corporate behavior is controlled by laws and regulations. External environmental factors, such as institution, market risk, etc., were always treated as exogenous variables [55,64]. However, as we argued before that there is a big difference between objective environmental factors and subjective (perceived) external environmental factors. Few studies explored corporate green behavior in this perspective. Therefore, this paper innovatively split the intention into two parts, internal and external perceived intention. The study [56] had found that the perceived stakeholder environmental pressure positively improves corporate environmental responsibility. However, they only paid attention to the pressure from competitors. It only noticed government and non-government organization roles in the transmission of such pressure perception, neglecting that perceived governmental green attitude, especially jurisdictional government, also pressured to corporations. Therefore, we investigate the perception change of internal executives, and perceived perception change of external territorial governments and competitors, to detect whether and to what extent Xuanguan can make effects in the transmission path (Figure 2). It assumes that government-led green publicity will play positive roles in influencing corporate behavior and become an effective supplement of formal regulation. Detailed discussion is in Section 4.4.

2.2. Internal Perception and Corporate Behavior

The Upper Echelons Theory shows that leadership, especially sustainable leadership, is an essential factor of corporate sustainability (CS, Corporate Sustainability) [66,67,68]. Among CS research, by a comprehensive investigation of 1249 works within the literature from 2000 to 2020, the study [69] concluded that top managers are the great driving force and pioneers of corporations engaged in responsible social and environmental practice. Previous studies have shown that leaders with stronger green perceptions are more likely to promote green behavior change in corporations [69,70,71]. The personality, values, achievement motivation, or power desire of executives can influence their decision on CS development [72,73], but attitudes or intentions to environmental sustainability play vital roles [71,72,74,75].
Previous research divided the green perception within the corporate into perceived green opportunity and perceived green risk [76,77,78].
Some studies have found a positive relationship between green opportunity and corporate green behavior [79,80,81]. For example, the research of Galkina and Chetty [81] pointed out that the emergence of opportunities will promote the establishment of relationships between entrepreneurs and partners, which will help entrepreneurs to enter the market. In addition, Ye et al. [79] mentioned in the study of changes in corporate green willingness that market opportunities represent consumers’ needs and socio-economic development requirements, which will promote corporate green behaviors. The perceived green opportunity mainly refers to the potential benefits if implement green behaviors, such as an increase in demand when consumers’ needs change [82,83,84], reward or subsidy from governments [52,85,86,87], the rise of corporate green brand images [88] and so on. Gast et al. [26] made a systematic review of ecological sustainability entrepreneurship and concluded those influencing factors of green behavior. Ogiemwonyi et al. [84] and Afshar and Jia [89] conducted research on consumers from different countries and found that with the expansion of green product promotion, the surge in demand for green products will prompt corporations to implement green behaviors. When Chu et al. [51] studied the impact of green policy cognition on green entrepreneurial behavior, they found that the usefulness of the government’s improved policy perception would strengthen the participation of entrepreneurs in green entrepreneurial behavior, that is to say, government incentives or subsidies would encourage corporations to implement green behaviors. Suraporn and Chalermporn [88] showed that adopting green strategies could result in big improvements in the business performance and enhance the corporate brand image of environmental reasonability.
However, there was no consistency in the concept of green risk. So, the relationship between perceived green risk and corporate green behavior in previous studies is different. In the view of business benefits, some scholars think that taking green action will pay for extra costs [90,91], have a long-term return cycle [50,64,92], face uncertain obstacles from the current market [93], and so on. These will decrease the passion of corporations to take green transition. Ruan and Liu [91], Ngoc and Nguyen [94] conducted studies in different regions and found that environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments can improve the performance of large corporations to a certain extent, but it made great cost burden to non-state-owned enterprises and non-environmentally sensitive enterprises. Lin and Ho [64], Demirel et al. [52] investigated that corporations having a higher expectation of implementing cost and longer investment return period were reluctant to take green practices under the environmental uncertainty. Bendell [93] mentioned an interesting behavior of family firms. Family firms always showed a high tendency to invest in environmental protection innovation to build a better tie with local governments and get less super. However, when they perceived damage of a visit to their reputation, they would cut down the environmental investment.
In recent years, with the popularity of social responsibility beyond economic concerns, more and more researchers discuss green risks from such a comprehensive perspective. corporate social responsibility (CSR), which requires corporations to follow the community regulations, adapt the local social value changes [95,96], attach importance to public opinion [97] and invest in environmentally friendly areas, becomes a key rule of corporate sustainability [33,34]. Branco and Rodrigues [34] discussed the internal and external advantages of taking CSR from a resource-based perspective. It, to some extent, illustrated that the potential failure to fulfill the requirements of CSR brought huge green risks for corporations. In the view of point, corporations will adopt green behaviors to avoid such kinds of risks. To explore the mechanism between CSR and green behavior, Hasford and Farmer [97] inferred that when consumers showed high belief in the socially responsible aspect of products, corporations who do not take green action got more negative comments than the ones who took green actions. Research on green productions by Hong et al. [98] showed that the consumers’ attitude to green products and the environmental issues has decisive impacts on green manufacturing willingness, through the pricing mechanism. Furthermore, Chen [96] compared the influence of environmental concerns on clean production and non-clean production, which revealed that the rising of environmental concerns drove up the price and profits of green products and encouraged clean production investments finally.
The in-hand study here follows the social responsibility view to measure green risks. We assume that government-led green publicity could enhance society’s concern of green development and then develop the social responsibility of corporations. An executive who is treated by the government-led publicity will have a clear idea not only of economic risks but also of social responsibility risks. Therefore, the more accurate perception of green risks from the perspective of social responsibility is assumed to get a more active action of green behaviors.
Regarding this, the following hypotheses are proposed:
Hypothesis 1 (H1).
Government-led green publicity through influencing the perceived green opportunity of executives indirectly positively impacts corporate green behavior.
Hypothesis 1a (H1a).
Government-led green publicity positively impacts the perceived green opportunity of executives.
Hypothesis 1b (H1b).
The perceived green opportunity of executives positively impacts corporate green behavior.
Hypothesis 2 (H2).
Government-led green publicity through influencing the perceived green risk of executives indirectly positively impacts corporate green behavior.
Hypothesis 2a (H2a).
Government-led green publicity positively impacts the perceived green risk of executives.
Hypothesis 2b (H2b).
The perceived green risk of executives positively impacts corporate green behavior.

2.3. External Environment Perception and Corporate Behavior

External institutional environmental factors, such as completeness of policies and regulations [23,55,65], market structure or marketization degree [79], financing system [52,99,100,101], etc. Organizations are involved in, have been proved to be important variables in behavior change research. Based on 1562 questionnaires, Ye et al. [79] found that market opportunities can be used as a driving factor to promote the conversion of green entrepreneurial intentions. Demirel et al. [52] introduced the problems existing in the behavior of green start-ups and found that the failure of green start-ups to obtain external financing has affected their continued green behavior. Research by Chang et al. [65] showed that government policies, such as subsidies, incentives, and economic innovation, can promote the application of renewable energy in buildings and infrastructure. In addition, Zhang et al. [23] and He et al. [55] found that the command-control environmental regulation and market incentive environmental regulation adopted by the government can promote the willingness of corporations to innovate green technology and enhance the behavior of green technology innovation in China. Obviously, environment variables in the aspect of institutions, especially the formal regulations, do have a significant influence on green behavior change.
Another branch of the literature stated the obvious influence of consumers, competitors, and governments on corporations’ decision-making in the perspective of stakeholder’s theory [27,102,103]. Möller and Herm [104] explored the evaluated performance of green entrepreneurs through investigating a group of consumers, and they found consumers with high environmental values would make higher grades on entrepreneurs than the consumers with low environmental values. It indirectly revealed that the pressure from consumers would make a difference. In the literature review, we found a minor difference that most of the articles discuss on “what” type of environment summarized as objective environmental factors in this paper. During the process of primary investigation, we clearly found that perceived environmental factors (subjective factors) are much influential to corporate decision-making. That is just where the Xuanguan can play a role. Therefore, we mainly focused on the perceived external environment. We obtained inspiration from the literature on environmental pressures and corporate green behavior. For example, Rui and Lu [105] explained pressure from competitors as a kind of imitation pressure, which he found that imitation pressure can promote corporate environment ethics and green innovation behavior. Zhao et al. [106] furtherly investigated the competitor’s green success stimulated corporation’s comprehensive business performance because of corporations’ dual ambidexterity. Yang et al. [107] carefully analyzed whether and how executives’ perceived pressure of market (business companies) and non-market (government and the public) forces on environmental protection will influence corporate environmental strategy making. They explained that the pressure from competitors and the social environment would enhance the enthusiasm for a proactive environmental strategy (PES). A study [108] on the environmental behavior of paper enterprises in China also checked the external and internal pressures including political, economic, and social aspects on pro-environmental behavior. It found a significantly positive relationship between external pressures and environmental behavior.
Referencing but differing from previous studies, the external perceived environmental factors in our research are designed as the perceived green intention of competitors and local governments in our research. Firstly, in the context of Xuanguan, consumers are not the targeted objects, which is the main difference between normal publicity with the claimed government-led publicity in this article. The publicity of the public and consumers can improve their green cognition level, and then they can furtherly push green actions of enterprises. This view has been fully proved as in the above literature. However, Xuanguan, named of government-led publicity in this article, is aimed at the publicity and education of enterprises and subordinate governments. Its purpose is to transmit relevant policies, regulatory documents, and other information to enterprises, industries, and relevant units as soon as possible, to enhance their cooperation and reduce their cognitive differences, which is finally reflected in the positive promotion of green behavior. We did measure the perceived intention of consumers in preliminary research but found no relationship with Xuanguan. Therefore, we did not include that factor in our framework.
We agreed that corporations will be pushed to take green actions if they receive strong signals of pro-green requirements from their stakeholders. Several studies have highlighted the impact of competitors’ green attitude on corporate sustainability strategy [105,107]. However, when it comes to government, governments’ “action” (such as regulations, incentives, etc.) rather than cognition were always taken into consideration [22,51,53,54]. The attitude to the green development of governments was supposed to be positive in most of the research. Governments are taken as “designer”, “referee” and “waiter” of green transformation, because they established industrial policies, guided the researcher allocation, and supervised market development [22]. We will not argue for the importance of a series of regulations made by governments. Furthermore, we stated the role of territorial government, which is distinguished from the general concept “government” in previous studies. We noticed the difference in power among the hierarchy of governments. The regulations put forward by upper-class governments will impact corporations who are simultaneously supervised by the local governments. The novel argument here is that, in our investigation, among the hierarchy of governments, the green attitudes of jurisdictional governments, are not always consistent with the environmental regulations or policies. Same to the corporations and their competitors, local governments are supposed to learn regulations and policies as well. Government-led publicity can enhance their green perception of green transition development by improving the perceived public policies. When corporations perceived a high degree of green requirement from the territorial government, they will take green actions because of legitimacy pressure [52,109], goodwill of building a tight relationship with their supervisors [93], or pervasive threat [110]. In conclusion, the perceived green intention of local government is assumed to be positive enhancing the corporate green behavior. Here, hypothesis 3 and hypothesis 4 are proposed below:
Hypothesis 3 (H3).
Government-led green publicity through influencing the perceived green intention of competitor indirectly promotes corporate green behavior.
Hypothesis 3a (H3a).
Government-led green publicity positively impacts the perceived green intention of competitor.
Hypothesis 3b (H3b).
The perceived green intention of competitor positively impacts corporate green behavior.
Hypothesis 4 (H4).
Government-led green publicity indirectly promotes corporate green behavior by influencing the perceived green intention of territorial government.
Hypothesis 4a (H4a).
Government-led green publicity positively impacts the perceived green intention of territorial government.
Hypothesis 4b (H4b).
The perceived green intention of territorial government positively impacts corporate green behavior.

2.4. Model Specification

To sum up, this study constructs a relationship model of government-led green publicity, corporate green perception, and corporate green behavior, as shown in Figure 3.

3. Data and Method

3.1. Sampling and Data Collection

The data of this study came from the questionnaire survey of industrial manufacturing corporations in Henan Province, one of 34 provinces in China. Sampling by Henan manufacturing corporations has several advantages. First, manufacturing is a pillar industry of the national economy and a key aspect for China to achieve economic growth as well as low-carbon transformation. Manufacturing products have various types, large quantities, high energy consumption, and strong environmental relevance. The statistics showed that in 2020, the added value of the secondary industry in Henan Province was about 360 billion dollars. It ranked fifth within the country and first in inland provinces, with strong industrial strength [111]. In addition, Henan Province was considered one of the earliest provinces that implemented a green development strategy to promote the green transformation of the industry. In terms of government-led green publicity, Henan Province has launched a series of Greening Henan government-led publicity activities across the province since 2017, which makes it a perfect observed site. Furthermore, the investigation is rigorous, reliable, and neutral. Henan Green Manufacturing Alliance (HNGMA), a non-governmental and non-profit organization that later proved to be influential, was established in November 2018. The organization involves many industrial manufacturing companies, including steel, nonferrous metals, chemicals, building materials, papermaking, printing, and dyeing. With their help, we have greatly increased our understanding of enterprises in the field of green manufacturing, and effectively avoided the research deviation caused by the subjective and even biased cognition of researchers. The organization also gathered a group of experts, scholars, industry elites, and other professionals in the field of green development, who provided very good suggestions for our research. The whole investigation is independent of the governments. Therefore, the case selected in this paper is high-quality and fits the research purpose, and is certainly a good representation.
The theoretical observation pool is the group of workers in charge, such as the chief executive officer (CEO) who can really represent the company. It is not easy for researchers to reach the first-level representative of a company. So, usually by assuming the senior managers are also familiar with the development strategy of companies, it is an alternative to investigate them. However, due to COVID-19, it was difficult for investigators to communicate face-to-face with specific respondents. Therefore, this study mainly distributed questionnaires to employees of manufacturing corporations in Henan Province through social media by the methods of convenience sampling and snowball sampling. We did two things to guarantee the respondents’ representation of their companies. On one hand, with the help of HNGMA initially, questionnaires were accurately delivered to several social media groups (Wechat group) consisting of senior managers. Respondents could be randomly obtained. Then, the snowball keeps rolling upon their relation web. On the other hand, the questionnaire designed a question to collect the basic information of the respondents, such as whether they are executives of corporations, corporate location, corporate scale, corporate type, etc. As defined corporate executives referred to the definition of Article 216 of The Corporate Law of China, this paper considered managers, deputy managers, financial principals, listed corporations board secretaries, and other persons specified in the articles of association of the corporations as executives. Finally, a total of 217 questionnaires were collected from April 2020 to May 2020. After validity checking, several 199 samples are useful with an effective rate of 91.71%.
The questionnaire was designed based on previous research results and appropriately adjusted according to the preliminary investigation and comments from HNGMA experts to ensure reliability and validity. The questionnaire consisted of six parts, including 56 closed-ended questions, which were measured using a five-point Likert scale except for basic information and specially marked questions. The first part of the questionnaire collected the basic information of the respondents. The second part focused on government-led green publicity (Xuanguan). This study used the measurement ideas of informal regulation for reference [112], and measured government-led green publicity from four aspects: intensity, content matching, timeliness, and information adequacy. The third part used the maturity scale to measure perceived internal intention, including the perceived green opportunity (PG opportunity) and the perceived green risk (PG risk) [87,92]. The fourth part referred to the existing study [113] to measure perceived external intention, including the perceived green intention of territorial government (PGI of territorial government) and the perceived green intention of competitor (PGI of competitor). The fifth part focused on corporate green behavior (CGB), including green technological innovation (GTI), green production process (GPP), and green marketing (GM). Referenced to previous studies [114,115,116], we not only scored objective green behavior but also measure the evaluation (subjective) of corporate green behavior—comparing to competitors. The sixth part collected information about government environmental regulation (GER). Detailas of questionnaire can be seen in Supplementary Materials.

3.2. Descriptive Statistics

Table 1 shows the demographic profile and descriptive statistics of the samples. The gender distribution of the samples varies greatly, and male workers are likely to be overrepresented. However, considering the historical development environment of manufacturing corporations in Henan Province, gender differences are not taken as the core element of this study. The percentage of corporations below the designated scale is 71.36%, which means that small and medium-sized corporations account for the majority. 58.29% of the surveyed corporations are state-owned. Meanwhile, most of the respondents are highly educated, with undergraduates accounting for 58.29%, and masters accounting for 16.58%.
The government-led green publicity, green intention, and corporate green behavior in this study were derived from the perception of respondents. Table 2 shows the descriptive statistical results of the main latent variables. Average scores of government-led green publicity in aspects of intensity, content matching, and information adequacy ranged from 3.60 to 3.72, indicating positive feedback of government-led green publicity among manufacturing corporations in Henan province. The perceived internal intention includes PG opportunity and PG risk. The perceived external intention includes PGI of territorial government and PGI of competitor. They were all measured based on the subjective perceptions of respondents. Considering that the scores of each item are above 3.5, we found most corporations perceived a high level of green intention both internal and external. We noticed interesting results of GPP and GM scores of green behaviors. On average, respondents made higher scores on their own corporate green behaviors than peers. It could be possibly explained in two ways. The respondents had high comments on their corporate green behavior which reflected the positive reality of green action among investigated companies. Or they had biased cognition. Since Xuanguan has the function of delivering information on the frontiers of industrial green performance, such a result was out of expected. We checked the data and found an uneven distribution between different channels of participating in government-led publicity activities. Considering there were 53.27% of the interviewees who never participated in the onsite (off-line) Xuanguan activities during the past three years, we supposed that there was a heterogeneous effect of information access channels. A detailed analysis can be found in Section 4.3.

3.3. Method

Since the variables such as government-led green publicity, perceived internal intention, perceived external intention, and corporate green behavior are all latent variables with strong subjectivity and are difficult to be directly measured, the correlation among variables is complex and the influence paths are various. Therefore, a structural equation model (SEM) was adopted in this study.
The structural equation model can analyze and verify the direct and indirect relationship between variables based on the covariance matrix of variables under the premise of sufficient theoretical demonstration and empirical rule support. In the research process, observation variables and latent variables were considered. Since latent variables cannot be measured directly, observation variables should be used to represent latent variables through the following structural relations.
x i h = λ i h ξ i + ε i h
where xih represents the observed variable, ξi is the latent variable, λih represents the correlation coefficient between the observed variable and the latent variable, namely, the factor loading coefficient under normal circumstances, and εih represents the disturbance term.
The structural equation model is usually presented linearly when describing the causal relationship between latent variables, and the logical relationship between latent variables can be expressed as:
ξ i = i j β i j ξ i + δ j
where βij is the correlation coefficient of latent variables ξi and ξj, reflecting the correlation degree between latent variables, which is also called path coefficient in much of the literature, and δj is the residual.

4. Results

4.1. Reliability and Validity Test

In this study, items that did not meet the standard were removed through factor analysis, and 8 factors composed of 37 indicators were obtained in the end. The total variance explained by each variable was higher than 60%, and the difference between different dimensions under the same variable was obvious. The reliability and validity test results are shown in Table 3. Cronbach’s Alpha values of various variables, such as government-led green publicity, perceived green opportunity, perceived green risk, perceived green intention of territorial government, perceived green intention of the competitor, corporate green behavior, and government environmental regulation, are all higher than the criterion of 0.7, indicating a good reliability level of this measurement.
In addition, we conducted exploratory and confirmatory tests (Appendix A). KMO test and Bartlett sphericity test were carried out for each variable in this study. KMO values of each variable were all higher than 0.80, and Bartlett sphericity test results were significant, indicating that questionnaire data can be used for subsequent confirmatory factor analysis. In the process of confirmatory factor analysis, the factor load of each question after rotation was higher than 0.50, the Average Extraction Variation (AVE) of each variable was greater than 0.50, and the Composite Reliability (CR) was greater than 0.75. The results showed that all the variables have good discriminant and convergence validity.
Based on the above results, structural equation model analysis was applied in this study. The results are shown in Table 4 and Figure 4. All the test standards are at an acceptable level, so it can be considered that the model fitting effect is relatively ideal and the model results can be used for empirical analysis.

4.2. Empirical Results

The standardized path coefficient in Figure 4 reflects the degree to which government-led green publicity affects corporate green behavior on different indirect paths, and the significance level is the possibility of rejecting the path null hypothesis. Table 5 shows the hypothesis testing results of the model and the standardized path coefficients of different acting channels. It can be found that the indirect influence of government-led green publicity on corporate green behavior through four channels is statistically significant, and the comprehensive effect of government-led green publicity on corporate green behavior is 0.76.
Therefore, we can conclude that: government-led green publicity can positively influence corporate green behavior, and it is mediated by perceived internal intention and perceived external intention. That is, Hypotheses 1, 2, 3, and 4 are confirmed.
Table 5. Hypotheses testing of the government-led green publicity to corporate green behavior.
Table 5. Hypotheses testing of the government-led green publicity to corporate green behavior.
HypothesisPathSt. CoefficientpResult
H1Xuanguan → PG opportunity0.710.36***Accept
PG opportunity → corporate green behavior0.50***
H2Xuanguan → PG risk0.540.10***Accept
PG risk → corporate green behavior0.18**
H3Xuanguan → PGI of competitor0.630.24***Accept
PGI of competitor → corporate green behavior0.38***
H4Xuanguan → PGI of territorial government0.590.07***Accept
PGI of territorial government → corporate green behavior0.12*
Note: * p < 0.1; ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01.
We noticed that there are obvious differences in the degree of influence of different paths. In the influence path of perceived internal intention, the impact of perceived green opportunity on corporate green behavior is more significant (path coefficient is 0.36), which is more than three times the perceived green risk (path coefficient is 0.10). This shows that when the executives of manufacturing corporations are leading the change of green behavior, they pay more attention to the benefits brought by green behavior to the corporations, rather than the possible adverse impact of green behavior on the environment.
In addition, compared with the perceived green intention of territorial government (path coefficient is 0.07), the perceived green intention of competitors (path coefficient 0.24) is more conducive to promoting corporate green behavior. One possible reason is that most corporations generally only need to meet the minimum requirements of territorial governments to obtain the legal right to continue as a business. However, corporations in the market environment need to always pay attention to the behavior of their competitors and respond in time to avoid the risks they may encounter in competition.

4.3. Subgroup-Based Analysis

In the process of industrial green transformation, the Chinese government has carried out green publicity through various channels, and the degrees of government participation vary within those channels. It led to the following question 1: Is there any difference in the effect of government-led green publicity in different channels in information transmission?
To explore this question further, this study provided respondents with multiple optional options, including 11 given mainstream information access channels, and 1 channel that respondents can fill in by themselves. This study defined newspapers and magazines, books, film and television, radio, offline publicity activities organized by the government, and publicity in public places as official channels (the information released by these channels requires official review or approval). At the same time, communication between relatives and friends, WeChat public platform, Microblog, short video platforms, and discussion at the workplace were defined as personal channels (the information released by these channels does not require official review or approval). For other channels filled in by respondents themselves, we divided them into official channels and personal channels according to similar standards.
We defined formula to measure the information source preference degree k of interviewees, which can distinguish whether respondents prefer to obtain green information through official or personal channels, as shown in Formula (3):
k = m × i + n m × j n
where n is the total number of channels selected by the respondents. Among these channels, the number of official channels is denoted as m. i and j are the scores that can be obtained by choosing official channels and personal channels respectively. In this study, i and j are, respectively, defined as 1 and 0. Therefore, the respondent’s preference k to the information source can be calculated, and the value range is [0, 1].
The closer k is to 1, it indicates that individuals prefer to obtain green information from official channels; otherwise, it indicates that individuals obtain more green information from personal channels. We made a definition: k belonging to [0, 0.5] and [0.5, 1] groups were denoted as personal channel preference and official channel preference respectively.
The result of the packet path inspection is shown in Figure 5. In the official channel preference group, the effect of government-led green publicity on corporate green behavior is more obvious. All four paths are significant, and the combined effect is 0.91. In the personal channel preference group, only two paths are significant, namely, perceived green opportunity and perceived green intention of the competitor, with a combined effect of only 0.57. This shows that, compared with obtaining green information from personal channels, corporations obtaining information from official channels are more helpful to help corporations implement green behaviors and realize low-carbon transformation.
The results of grouping path analysis show that no matter which channel individuals prefer to obtain information through, government-led green publicity can positively promote the formation of green perception. On this basis, we further verified whether information source preference played a moderating role in the influence of government-led green publicity on the four types of green perception, and found that it can only significantly change the influence process of internal green perception, as shown in Figure 6.
In the case of a low level of government-led green publicity, corporations that prefer to obtain information from personal channels have a higher green perception. However, with the improvement of the level of government-led green publicity, the green perception of corporations that prefer to obtain information from official channels has increased significantly, which is higher than that of personal channels. In addition, the test results also show that no matter what channel corporations prefer to obtain green information, there will be no significant difference in the perceived external intention.
In addition to the heterogeneity of channels, we also noticed such problems in the process of research: In the process of industrial green transformation, the government pays different attention to different types of corporations, mainly reflected in the two aspects of corporate ownership and corporate scale. In terms of corporate ownership, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are more closely linked with the government, which makes SOEs often act as pioneers when investing in green transformation, and are often promoted by the government as industry benchmarks. In terms of corporate scale, the government pays more attention to corporations above the designated scale, and some statistics even only use the data of corporations above the designated scale as a regional level representative. Figure 7 illustrated the results of sub-group of corporate ownership.
The combined effects of non-state-owned enterprise (non-SOEs) group and the SOEs group are 0.77 and 0.61, which showed that government-led green publicity had a more positive effect on the implementation of green behaviors of non-SOEs. In addition, there are also obvious differences between non-SOEs and SOEs in the specific path of government-led green publicity affecting corporate green behavior. Non-SOEs are significant on three paths except opportunity perception, while SOEs are significant only on two paths of opportunity perception and green attitude perception of their competitors. The government-led green publicity can improve the perceived green opportunity by non-SOEs, but the perceived green opportunity does not significantly promote their green behavior. This may be because non-SOEs do not have an underlying security system in their operations, and their operational decisions do not need to fully implement the government’s will. As a result, while they know that a green transition can help their business in the long run, they tend to be hesitant because implementing green behaviors requires significant liquidity in the short term.
However, for SOEs, the two paths of perceived green risk and perceived green intention of territorial government have no significant impact. The operation of SOEs is closely related to the government’s inclination, and they are more likely to implement the government’s will for green development. Regardless of what degree of territorial government’s environmental protection attitude they perceive, they all need to actively implement green behaviors and play a role model for the green transformation of industries in the region. This may lead to an insignificant path for corporations to perceive the green attitude of territorial governments. Similarly, because they have greater pressure on environmental protection and benchmarking, no matter what level of perceived green risk, they need to actively implement green behaviors, which may cause their green risk perception path to be insignificant.
When discussing question 3, this study also conducted grouping path analysis based on the relationship between corporate scale and national designated scale, and the results are shown in Figure 8. From the perspective of the path coefficient, the combined effect of corporations above designated scale (above-DSCs) and the grouping of corporations below designated scale (blow-DSCs) are 0.58 and 0.71. It shows that blow-DSCs are more vulnerable to the impact of government-led green publicity.
Compared with above-DSCs, the perceived green opportunity of below-DSCs is more likely to promote corporate green behavior (0.45 > 0.25). It is probably because below-DSC corporations would like to find more opportunities to make corporate scale expansion. However, above-DSCs agree more with this view than below-DSCs, that is, government-led green publicity can promote corporate green behavior by strengthening the perceived green intention of competitor (0.33 > 0.18). In addition, the path test results show that perceived green opportunity does not affect that process, for which we have no significant statistical evidence.
Figure 8. Path diagram of different corporate scale groups. (a) Corporations above Designated Scale, (b) Corporations below Designated Scale. Note: ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01.
Figure 8. Path diagram of different corporate scale groups. (a) Corporations above Designated Scale, (b) Corporations below Designated Scale. Note: ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01.
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4.4. Further Analysis

Considering the actual situation faced by corporations in Henan Province in the process of production and operation, manufacturing corporations are affected in two ways, one is environmental regulation that belongs to the formal regulation, and the other is the government-led green publicity that belongs to the informal regulation. Moreover, it is important to note that the specific content of government-led green publicity is closely related to the ongoing environmental regulation.
Existing studies show that the implementation of green behavior of corporations is affected by environmental regulations [22,23,28,117]. Environmental regulation refers to a series of legal means designed by governments at all levels and in the regulation of various corporate behaviors that pollute the environment [118]. According to the regulation mode, environmental regulation can be divided into command-and-control environmental regulation and market-based incentive environmental regulation [119]. Improvement in command-and-control regulation can help corporations recognize the environmental consequences of non-green behaviors in the form of financial penalties.
It could be found that environmental regulation seems to influence corporate green behavior through a similar path. To explore the role of environmental regulation in the process of government-led green publicity affecting corporate green behavior, this study first replaced the variable of government-led green publicity in the main analysis model with the variable of environmental regulation to verified the relationship between environmental regulation and corporate green behavior. After the reliability and validity tests and factor analysis (Appendix A), the structural equation model was analyzed. The results are shown in Table 6 and Figure 9. It can be considered that the fitting effect of the structural equation model is relatively ideal.
It can be found that environmental regulation can indirectly affect corporate green behavior through the same cognitive path, and the four paths are also significant. The comprehensive effect of environmental regulation on corporate green behavior is 0.71. It shows that with the improvement of corporate environment perception level, corporations will positively promote green behavior.
Figure 9. Government Environmental Regulation Model. Note: ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01.
Figure 9. Government Environmental Regulation Model. Note: ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01.
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Based on the above research conclusions, to fully explore whether government-led green publicity was an effective supplement to environmental regulations, and to clarified what role government-led green publicity played and how much it played, we conducted four groups of regulatory effect tests.
The following tests were used to verify the direction and strength of the four types of cognition, including whether government-led green publicity has changed environmental regulation affecting the perceived green opportunity and the perceived green risk, as well as the perceived green intention of the territorial government and the perceived green intention of a competitor. The independent variables of Model 1 to Model 4 were all environmental regulation, and the dependent variables were the four categories of green perception mentioned above in turn. The results are shown in Table 7 and Figure 10.
It can be found that Models 1, 2, 3, and 4 all showed significant regulatory effects, indicating that government-led green publicity has indeed changed the impact of environmental regulation on the level of green perception. From the high-low grouping results shown in Figure 10, regardless of the intensity of environmental regulation, high-level government-led green publicity can always improve green perception than low-level government-led green publicity. In short, the above analysis proves that government-led green publicity can effectively and positively strengthen the process of environmental regulation affecting green perception. As an informal regulation, government-led green publicity is a powerful complement to the formal system of environmental regulation.
Figure 10. Comparison between high and low score groups of different models.
Figure 10. Comparison between high and low score groups of different models.
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5. Discussion

Based on the theoretical framework of Government-led publicity–Corporate Perceived intention–Corporate behavior model, this study revealed the impact of government-led green publicity on corporate green behavior and explored the heterogeneous effects of information transmission channels, corporate ownership, and corporate scale. Structural equation modeling was used for empirical testing, and the findings support many of the hypothetical relationships proposed above.
Firstly, the results showed that government-led green publicity positively impacted corporate green behavior. Similar to the viewpoints of Social Cognitive Theory [120,121], this study found that through government-led green publicity, both perceived internal intention and perceived external intention of corporations affected corporate green behavior. However, there were differences in the impact paths of the two. From the perceived internal intention, the influence of the opportunity perception path was about four times that of the risk perception path, indicating that Chinese manufacturing corporations pay more attention to the benefits and opportunities brought by green behavior. From the perceived external intention, the role of the perceived green intention of the competitor was also much higher than that of the perceived green intention of the territorial government. The results showed that the pressure from competitors was more likely to promote green behavior among firms than the pressure from the government. Such differences between the two paths can be explained by institutional theory [122,123]. The institutional theory divides the pressure from stakeholders into regulatory pressure and imitation pressure, while Regulatory pressure mainly comes from the government, and imitation pressure mainly comes from competitors [105]. The mechanism of the two explains the differences in the perceived external intention. In most cases, Chinese manufacturers only tend to meet base-level requirements in environmental regulations. For example, the study of Ruan and Liu [91] found that the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) activities of corporations have a significant effect on the performance of corporations, although the government continues to develop and improve the ESG policy, Chinese corporations lack initiative in ensuring the objectivity and authenticity of ESG information disclosure. However, if they fall behind their competitors in green behavior, they risk being at a competitive disadvantage. Chang’s research supports this view that corporations’ green behaviors help them gain a competitive advantage [124].
Secondly, the study found that government-led green publicity strengthened the positive effect of environmental regulation on green perception. Consistent with most existing conclusions, as the perceived degree of environmental regulation gradually increases, corporations will be more inclined to implement green behaviors. For example, some recent studies about GTI or other corporate green behaviors show that environmental regulation can positively promote the implementation of the environmental behavior of corporations [23,55,74]. In addition, this study found that with the increase of government-led green publicity, regardless of the level of environmental regulation, the level of perceived internal intention and perceived external intention will continue to improve. This finding strongly supports the view that government-led green publicity can enhance the policy effect of environmental regulation. In an informal way, government-led green publicity is conducive to stimulating the formal environmental regulation to play a more effective role according to the regulation theory. Chen et al. [125] found that when guiding corporations to implement green behavior, not only formal means such as pollution tax, subsidies are needed, but also informal means like environmental publicity to play a positive role. For territorial governments, government-led green publicity and environmental regulation play complementary role in the process of government work. For corporations, government-led green publicity creates an information environment that is difficult to evade for their business activities. The perceptual information formed by corporations in this environment will further promote the formation of green perception when facing environmental regulations. In other words, a higher level of government-led green publicity is more conducive to improving the efficiency of transforming environmental regulations into green perception. To some extent, some studies on publicity by the government have similar views. For example, some studies of water policy believe that publicity and education by the government can be used as an information intervention strategy, to enhance residents’ awareness of environmental protection by conveying relevant knowledge to citizens and creating a social environment (such as the establishment of a “World Water Day”) [45,126]. To a certain extent, the findings of Perron et al. [90] on environmental management and awareness, that to help organizations fully implement environmental management plans, organizational members must participate in sustained environmental awareness training, as well as learning about environmental policy, are consistent with this view.
Thirdly, when comparing whether there are differences in the information transmission of different government-led green publicity channels, this paper also found that both personal channels and official channels can make government-led green publicity work, but under different levels of government-led green publicity, the roles played by these channels’ effects vary. When government-led green publicity is at a low level, it is more conducive to individuals to form a higher level of green perception by preferring private channels to obtain information than official channels. However, with the advancement of the national strategy, the level of government-led green publicity will inevitably continue to improve. At this time, compared with sticking to private channels, guiding individuals to use official channels to obtain green information can ensure that their green perception level remains relatively high. Moreover, this perception level is higher than the level of perception triggered by private channels at a low level of government-led green publicity. Such a conclusion is different from some existing studies. For example, studies by Han and Cheng [127] have found that social media plays a more significant role in regulating the relationship between perception and environmental behavior than traditional media, and even traditional media can inhibit environmental behavior under certain circumstances. However, the research of Han and Cheng focuses on the environmental protection behavior at the individual level, and more on the transmission of “normative information”, while this study focuses on the green behavior at the enterprise level, and there are obvious differences in the roles played by individuals and enterprises in the social network. At the same time, the information conveyed by “green promotion” is more systematic and comprehensive, not only including normative information. Generally speaking, this does not mean that it is obviously opposed to our research conclusions but should be regarded as a mutual supplement of research conclusions.
Finally, we tested for heterogeneity in corporate ownership and corporate scale. Grouped by corporate ownership, this study found that the promotion effect of government-led green publicity on corporate green behavior of non-SOEs is more obvious, and there are differences in the motivation of different ownership corporations to implement green behavior. The motivation of SOEs to implement green behavior can be attributed more to the recognition of opportunities or the perception of competitors’ pressure on environmental protection. For non-SOEs, the study excludes a factor, that is, opportunity cognition does not promote the implementation of green behavior. Similar situations are also involved in the study of consumers’ green consumption paradox. Consumers have higher green cognition, but they may not implement green behavior. Some viewpoints are that in the process of green cognition-behavior, the uncertainty of comprehensive income and the gap in utility below expectations will inhibit this conversion process [128,129]. At the corporate level, the possible explanation is that, unlike the close ties between SOEs and the government, non-SOEs lack government commitment, while actions against green opportunities usually take up liquidity, and the income cycle is often longer. This makes enterprises need to consider the survival risks caused by investment failure and transformation failure [52,88,91]. Damert et al. [78] found a similar result, which is the climate opportunities that companies perceive internally will undermine the effectiveness of low-carbon supply chain management practices, and they put forward a view that some companies believe such green opportunities are mainly related to regulatory compliance, as well as they only need to take compliance and passive position. These thoughts may inhibit the process of cognitive-behavioral transformation.
When comparing the heterogeneous impact of corporate scale, the study found that not only do above-DSCs pay less attention to the green behavior promotion process of government-led green publicity but also the influence paths selection of above-DSCs and blow-DSCs are different. The cognitive paths of green opportunity and risk are the influence path that below-DSCs pay special attention to, but the reason why above-DSCs are more likely implement green behavior is that they perceive the green intention of their competitors. One possible explanation is that these corporations operate in different directions. From the perspective of experience, corporations below the scale are in a relatively disadvantageous position in the market competition, and they are more likely to pursue scale expansion and improve the current management situation. Therefore, blow-DSCs are more likely to seize green opportunities and avoid risks to expand their scale. Because the above-DSCs already have enough scale, they are more concerned about how to achieve sustainable management and maintain a competitive advantage. This makes our study different from some previous ones. For example, the conclusion of Lin and Ho [64], which also recognizes that corporate scale affects the environmental behavior of corporations, but they found that large corporations are more likely to implement green behavior because they have sufficient resources and strong basic capabilities. The reason for this difference may be the particularity of corporate green scale expansion, which will require corporations to pay relatively more in terms of environmental protection while improving production efficiency [91]. However, for most manufacturing enterprises, the government does not have very high environmental requirements for them, and they do not need to actively disclose environmental achievements, and the lack of mention of CSR attributes does not affect consumers’ evaluation of them [97].

6. Conclusions and Implications

To sum up, this study believes that government-led green publicity can stimulate the manufacturing industry to adopt green technology, launch green marketing, and implement green production. Compared with the lower level of government-led green publicity, corporations will take more green behaviors in the higher level of government-led green publicity. We noticed that different information access channels had different influences on the results. When the level of government-led green publicity was low, the effect of personal channels was more obvious. However, with the improvement of the level of government-led green publicity, official channels were more effective and suitable to become the main way for corporations to obtain policy information. This implies that the government can actively cooperate with information channels to disclose its own policies according to the current level of government-led green publicity to enhance the information exchange with corporations. Furthermore, the green behavior of non-SOEs is more vulnerable to government-led green publicity than SOEs. However, under the background of industrial green transformation, government-led green publicity will tighten the relationship between non-SOEs and the government which can promote the green development of non-SOEs. This study noted that the impact of government-led green publicity on SOEs’ behavior changes was not always significant. However, it did not mean that government-led green publicity failed to encourage SOEs to implement green behaviors. We explained that as the SOEs are always easier to communicate with the government in China, the effect of government-led green publicity would be covered by other factors. Furthermore, this paper proves that government-led green publicity can be an effective supplement to formal environmental regulation in promoting corporate green behavior.
The implication here is clear. Firstly, government-led publicity can play a role through different types of publicity channels. However, under different levels of government-led publicity, the effects of these channels are different. Government can clearly convey its environmental protection attitude or values very well to corporations under such a publicity framework which includes government, industrial non-governmental organizations, and the public. Second, compared with the traditional publicity form, government-led publicity can not only convey policy information but also competitors’ practices and other environmental factors outside the corporations. This decreases information asymmetry and helps corporations to learn new knowledge very soon. Thirdly, better than the formal regulation, government-led publicity can convey the regulating information in a mild way and give corporations more opportunity to dialogue with the policy-makers. This would also improve the governance ability of the governments. Such implication is important to other developing countries who want to unite their limited economic force to serve the national goal within a short time. We recognize the limitations of the existing analysis. For example, due to the limitation of methods and data, we have no way to directly verify the political signal transmission contained in the government-led publicity named ‘Xuanguan’. We can only make a judgment based on the research process and in reviews. Therefore, the research on ‘Xuanguan’ is worthy of more in-depth discussion.

Supplementary Materials

The following supporting information can be downloaded at:

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, J.Z., and Y.W.; methodology, S.L., and L.M.; software, S.L. and L.M.; validation, J.Z., Y.W., and S.L.; formal analysis, J.Z., and L.M.; investigation, J.Z.; resources, J.Z.; data curation, S.L.; writing—original draft preparation, S.L., and Y.W.; writing—review and editing, J.Z. and Y.W.; visualization, Y.W., and S.L.; supervision, J.Z.; project administration, J.Z.; funding acquisition, J.Z. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was funded by MOE (Ministry of Education in China) Project of Humanities and Social Sciences, grant number 18YJC790216, National Social Science Foundation of China, grant number 21&ZD108, and National Social Science Foundation of China, grant number 20BJL034.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.

Data Availability Statement

The data presented in this study are available on request from the corresponding author.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A

Step 1. Exploratory Factor Analysis
This study used SPSS 21.0 for reliability analysis and validity analysis. Firstly, the reliability of each latent variable and dimension was tested by Cronbach’s alpha coefficient method. The results are shown in Table A1. Among them, the Cronbach’s alpha values of government-led green publicity, perceived green opportunity, perceived green risk, perceived green intention of territorial government, perceived green intention of competitor, corporate green behavior and environmental regulation are higher than the discrimination standard of 0.7, indicating that the reliability level of this measurement is good.
Table A1. Reliability values of latent variables.
Table A1. Reliability values of latent variables.
Latent VariableIndicatorsCronbach’s Alpha
PG Opportunity50.868
PG Risk40.901
PGI of competitor40.806
PGI of territorial government40.892
Note: Xuanguan = Government-led Green Publicity, PG Opportunity = Perceived Green Opportunity, PG Risk = Perceived Green Risk, PGI of Competitor = Perceived Green Intention of Competitor, PGI of Territorial Government = Perceived Green Intention of Territorial Government, GTI = Green Technological Innovation, GPP = Green Production Process, GM = Green Marketing, GER = Government Environmental Regulation.
Secondly, during validity analysis, KMO value and Bartlett’s test were carried out. The results are shown in Table A2. All latent variables meet the test criteria of KMO value > 0.6, and have significant Bartlett’s test results, indicating that the validity of the questionnaire is good, and the measurement results can be used for subsequent factor analysis.
Table A2. Results of Kmo and Bartlett tests.
Table A2. Results of Kmo and Bartlett tests.
Latent VariableIndicatorsKMOBartlett Test
PG Opportunity50.884579.818100.000
PG Risk40.823372.48860.000
PGI of competitor40.837406.34760.000
PGI of territorial government40.839453.28860.000
Thirdly, exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was carried out on the above scales. When extracting the principal component, the set eigenvalue should be greater than 1, and the maximum variance method was used for rotation. The factor load of each question after rotation is higher than 0.5. The total variance explained by each variable is higher than 60%. The three dimensions of corporate green behavior variables are clearly distinguished, indicating that each scale has a good level of validity.
Table A3. Summary of exploratory factor analysis.
Table A3. Summary of exploratory factor analysis.
Latent VariableItemFactor LoadingAccumulative Contribution Rate
PG Opportunity10.85071.799%
PG Risk10.84571.732%
PGI of territorial government10.89775.703%
PGI of competitor10.87373.667%
Corporate Green BehaviorGTI10.86466.372%
Step 2. Confirmatory Factor Analysis
To ensure the reliability of structural equation model analysis results, Amos 22.0 confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was performed again for each latent variable. Table A4 shows the fitting index and passing standard of confirmatory factor analysis.
Table A4. Fitting index and passing standard of confirmatory factor analysis.
Table A4. Fitting index and passing standard of confirmatory factor analysis.
Pass Standard<3>0.9<0.1>0.5>0.7
  • Confirmatory Factor Analysis of Government-led Green Publicity
There were 4 latent variables in government-led green publicity. After CFA, it is found that the fitting index of the model is slightly poor. Combined with the MI, we found that the residual errors of Xuanguan_3 (Information is urgently needed by our corporation) and Xuanguan_2 (Provides green information related to our corporation) are not independent, and the factor loading of Xuanguan_3 is low.
Under such circumstances, we made a return visit to some respondents and found that corporations usually consider the current relevant green development information as an important part of the urgently needed information. In short, there is collinearity between Xuanguan_3 and Xuanguan_2. We tried to delete the third question and submitted the deleted questionnaire to the expert for consultation, which was recognized.
After performing CFA again, the factor loads of other questions were higher than 0.5, as well as AVE and CR were 0.699 and 0.874, respectively. The modified model had better reliability and combinatorial validity, and it was the only solution saturation model with only 3 measurement items, which have no other fitting indexes. So they were reserved for follow-up analysis.
Confirmatory Factor Analysis of Green Intention (group)
There were 5, 4, 4, and 4 issues involved in the four latent variables of perceived green opportunity, perceived green risk, perceived green intention of competitor, and perceived green intention of territorial government. After CFA, it was found that each measurement model fit index passed the test.
Table A5. Results of confirmatory factor analysis of green intention latent variables.
Table A5. Results of confirmatory factor analysis of green intention latent variables.
Latent VariableIndicatorsCMIN/DFCFIRMSEAAVECR
PG Opportunity51.5010.9960.0500.6480.902
PG Risk42.2980.9930.0810.6230.869
PGI of competitor40.427100.6500.881
PGI of territorial government40.874100.6770.893
Confirmatory Factor Analysis of Corporate Green Behavior
Corporate green behavior is a second-order latent variable including three first-order latent variables: green technology innovation, green production process, and green marketing. The first-order confirmatory factor analysis needs to be carried out before the second-order confirmatory factor analysis. Details are shown in Table A6.
Table A6. Fitting data table of first-order CFA model of corporate green behavior.
Table A6. Fitting data table of first-order CFA model of corporate green behavior.
1st Order Latent VariableIndicatorsCMIN/DFCFIRMSEAAVECR
The second-order confirmatory factor analysis was carried out for corporate green behavior, and the model fitting results are shown in Table A8. Since the second-order model of corporate green behavior was an equivalent model with only three first-order factors, and the factor loads from second-order to first-order are higher than 0.6, it can be considered that the second-order CFA of corporate green behavior can replace the first-order CFA model and be used for subsequent analysis.
Table A7. Fitting data of second-order CFA model of corporate green behavior.
Table A7. Fitting data of second-order CFA model of corporate green behavior.
VariableItemStandard Factor LoadingC.R.pAVECR
Corporate Green BehaviorGTI0.655 0.6910.868
GTIGTI_10.870 0.6590.906
GPPGPP_10.706 0.5520.86
GMGM_10.777 0.5440.893
Note: *** p < 0.01.
Confirmatory Factor Analysis of Environmental Regulation
There were 6 potential variables of environmental regulation. After the implementation of CFA, the model had good reliability and structural validity, so they were reserved for subsequent analysis.
Table A8. Results of confirmatory factor analysis of environment regulation.
Table A8. Results of confirmatory factor analysis of environment regulation.
Latent VariableIndicatorsCMIN/DFCFIRMSEAAVECR


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Figure 1. The role and actors of government-led publicity.
Figure 1. The role and actors of government-led publicity.
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Figure 2. Hypothetical influence the green behavior model.
Figure 2. Hypothetical influence the green behavior model.
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Figure 3. Hypothetical corporate green behavior model.
Figure 3. Hypothetical corporate green behavior model.
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Figure 4. Hypothetical corporate green behavior model. Note: * p < 0.1; ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01. Xuanguan = Government-led Green Publicity, PG Opportunity = Perceived Green Opportunity, PG Risk = Perceived Green Risk, PGI of Territorial Government = Perceived Green Intention of Territorial Government, PGI of Competitor = Perceived Green Intention of Competitor, GTI = Green Technological Innovation, GM = Green Marketing, GPP = Green Production Process.
Figure 4. Hypothetical corporate green behavior model. Note: * p < 0.1; ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01. Xuanguan = Government-led Green Publicity, PG Opportunity = Perceived Green Opportunity, PG Risk = Perceived Green Risk, PGI of Territorial Government = Perceived Green Intention of Territorial Government, PGI of Competitor = Perceived Green Intention of Competitor, GTI = Green Technological Innovation, GM = Green Marketing, GPP = Green Production Process.
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Figure 5. Path diagram of different information source preference groups. Note: ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01. (a) Personal Channel Preference, (b) Official Channel Preference.
Figure 5. Path diagram of different information source preference groups. Note: ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01. (a) Personal Channel Preference, (b) Official Channel Preference.
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Figure 6. Comparison between high and low score group of different models.
Figure 6. Comparison between high and low score group of different models.
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Figure 7. Path diagram of different corporate ownership groups. (a) Non-state-owned enterprise, (b) State-owned enterprise. Note: ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01.
Figure 7. Path diagram of different corporate ownership groups. (a) Non-state-owned enterprise, (b) State-owned enterprise. Note: ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01.
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Table 1. Descriptive statistics of demographic information (n = 199).
Table 1. Descriptive statistics of demographic information (n = 199).
Length of service<57437.19
Education backgroundCollege Degree or below4623.12
Bachelor Degree11658.29
Master Degree3316.58
Doctoral Degree42.01
Corporate scalecorporations above designated scale5728.64
corporations below designated scale14271.36
Corporate ownershipState-owned enterprise (SOE)11658.29
Non-state-owned enterprise (non-SOE)8341.71
Source: Author analysis.
Table 2. Descriptive statistics of the latent variables (n = 199).
Table 2. Descriptive statistics of the latent variables (n = 199).
Question ItemsAverageS.D.
Actively promote sustainable development3.721.11
Provides green information related to our corporation3.601.02
The information is very sufficient3.660.92
PG Opportunity
Green behavior can improve corporate economic performance3.531.10
Green behavior can improve corporate environmental performance3.751.05
Green behavior can improve corporate production efficiency3.63.0.94.
Green behavior can enhance corporate image3.841.05
Green behavior can enhance the corporate comprehensive competitiveness3.761.03
PG Risk
Fully understand the adverse impact of the corporation on the environment3.581.11
Fully understand the impact of environmental regulations on the corporation3.651.09
Fully understand the best environmental protection measures in the industry3.711.02
Think it is right to assume social responsibility for environmental protection3.771.02
PGI of Competitor
Attach great importance to environmental protection in operation3.701.14
Think green behavior is very important to the whole society3.771.07
Take green behavior as an important index to evaluate the corporate reputation3.690.93
Pay close attention to the environmental protection behavior of our corporation3.721.12
PGI of Territorial Government
Take environmental protection as one of the important tasks of governance3.751.16
Think green behavior is very important to the whole society3.731.07
Take green behavior as an important index to evaluate the corporate reputation3.741.04
Pay close attention to the environmental protection behavior of our corporation3.811.00
Willing to increase investment in the innovative design of green products3.79 1.13
Pay attention to the transformation of R & D focus to green products3.751.08
Committed to improving production processes to reduce pollution and consumption3.781.06
Prefer to design new products with low pollution and low energy consumption3.791.06
Prefer to design new products with low pollution and low energy consumption3.81.1.02
Compared with peers, the equipment used is greener and more advanced3.720.96
Compared with peers, the process technology used is greener and energy-saving3.720.96
Compared with peers, the raw materials used are more environmentally friendly3.720.96
Compared with its peers, a higher proportion of green and clean energy are used3.750.98
Compared with peers, treatment or recycling are paid more attention3.730.97
Compared with peers, identify the green needs of customers more efficiently3.671.07
Compared with peers, pay attention to the green behavior of channel members3.730.93
Compared with peers, the promotion process thinks highly of environmental protection3.750.97
Compared with peers, prefer to implement green communication3.730.92
Compared with peers, more inclined to establish a green corporate image3.880.99
When formulating strategies, more consideration is given to environmental protection3.731.03
Will adjust the organizational structure to implement green behavior3.760.95
The environmental laws and regulations faced are relatively perfect3.691.14
Strict environmental protection laws and regulations are faced3.681.04
If it fails to meet the environmental standards, it will be subject to strict pollution control punishment3.781.05
The government has formulated a perfect tax preference system for corporate green behavior3.660.99
The government provides well-established project loan discounts or loan preferences for corporations implementing green behavior3.691.07
The government provides special fund subsidies with a perfect system for corporate green projects3.751.10
Source: Author analysis. Note: Xuanguan = Government-led Green Publicity, PG Opportunity = Perceived Green Opportunity, PG Risk = Perceived Green Risk, PGI of Competitor = Perceived Green Intention of Competitor, PGI of Territorial Government = Perceived Green Intention of Territorial Government, GTI = Green Technological Innovation, GPP = Green Production Process, GM = Green Marketing, GER = Government Environmental Regulation.
Table 3. Results of confirmatory analysis.
Table 3. Results of confirmatory analysis.
Latent VariableIndicatorsAlphaKMOBartlettAVECR
PG Opportunity50.8680.8840.0000.6480.902
PG Risk40.9010.8230.0000.6230.869
PGI of competitor40.8800.8370.0000.6500.881
PGI of territorial government40.8920.8390.0000.6770.893
Table 4. Fitting index of government-led green publicity to corporate green behavior model.
Table 4. Fitting index of government-led green publicity to corporate green behavior model.
Model results1.7580.8040.0620.9040.9050.897
Model accuracyExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellent
Table 6. Fitting index of government environmental regulation to corporate green behavior model.
Table 6. Fitting index of government environmental regulation to corporate green behavior model.
Model results1.7080.7990.0600.9050.9060.898
Model accuracyExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellent
Table 7. Moderating effect test results of government-led green publicity.
Table 7. Moderating effect test results of government-led green publicity.
ModelUnStd.CHigh Score (p)Medium Score (p)Low Score (p)FR-sq
Model 10.1957 ************13.77580.0399
Model 20.2173 ***0.2972******11.45370.0472
Model 30.1426 **0.0379 ********5.08620.0189
Model 40.1243 **0.0343 ********4.00970.0150
Note: ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01.
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Wu, Y.; Zhang, J.; Liu, S.; Ma, L. Does Government-Led Publicity Enhance Corporate Green Behavior? Empirical Evidence from Green Xuanguan in China. Sustainability 2022, 14, 3181.

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Wu Y, Zhang J, Liu S, Ma L. Does Government-Led Publicity Enhance Corporate Green Behavior? Empirical Evidence from Green Xuanguan in China. Sustainability. 2022; 14(6):3181.

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Wu, Yuan, Jin Zhang, Shoulin Liu, and Lianrui Ma. 2022. "Does Government-Led Publicity Enhance Corporate Green Behavior? Empirical Evidence from Green Xuanguan in China" Sustainability 14, no. 6: 3181.

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