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Political Scientist Christina Toenshoff Wins Virginia Walsh Dissertation Award

Christina Toenshoff has been awarded the Virginia Walsh Dissertation Award for her PhD dissertation on corporate climate lobbying. The Leiden Political Scientist, according to the jury, ‘makes a significant contribution to the study of climate and business politics.’

Major contributions to the study of climate business politics

In her dissertation, Hiding in the Crowd: Corporate Climate Lobbying Under Investor and Consumer Pressure, Toenshoff advances a new theory of corporate lobbying on climate policy. Because of the growing global concern about climate change, there is an increased interest in the climate behaviour of large companies, including their lobbying activities. Toenshoff studied how companies are adapting their lobbying practices to these new pressures, with companies mainly making their lobbying activities less visible.

For example, less climate-friendly companies shift from lobbying individually to joining industry associations. This allows them to disappear into a larger group, and they are less easily held accountable as an individual company for their positions on climate issues. While this strategy facilitates the cover-up of corporate activities, it also means that lobbying through associations is a poor strategy for those who want to highlight their green positions. Therefore, greener companies will instead take more individual lobbying positions. This logic implies that investor and consumer pressure on climate lobbies may lead companies to change their lobbying strategies rather than their positions.

According to the jury report, ‘Toenshoff marshals an impressive array of observational and experimental evidence to develop her novel theoretical argument, with a focus on the case of European climate policymaking. […] This research makes major contributions to the study of climate politics narrowly and business politics broadly.’

Portret Christina Toenshoff
Dr. Christina Toenshoff

Completed ahead of schedule

Christina Toenshoff, who currently works as an assistant professor of European Politics and Political Economy at the Institute of Political Science, completed her dissertation at Stanford University under the supervision of Kenneth Scheve, Judith Goldstein, Michael Tomz and Amanda Kennard. Toenshoff says that she is particularly pleased about the prize because she finished the dissertation ahead of the initially planned schedule to join the Institute at Leiden. ‘The defense took place on 27 February 2024, and I flew to the Netherlands that same evening to start my job as assistant professor on 1 March.’ she elaborates. ‘As you can imagine, that meant that writing up my results had to happen quite quickly.’

Toenshoff is currently working on a manuscript that will turn the dissertation into a book, to be published by an academic press.

The Virginia Walsh Dissertation Award

The Virginia Walsh Dissertation Award is named in memory of a young scholar who tragically passed away, and is bestowed annually by the Science, Technology, and Environmental Politics (STEP) section of the American Political Science Association (APSA). It recognizes the best dissertations in the fields of science, technology, and environmental politics.

The Virginia Walsh Dissertation Award is presented annually to one outstanding dissertation completed in the previous academic year. This year’s award will be formally presented at the annual general meeting of APSA in early September 2024.

APSA is the professional association of Political Science students and scholars in the United States. Founded in 1903, APSA publishes a variety of peer-reviewed Political Science research journals, organises conferences and meetings, and promotes the study and teaching of Political Science.

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