A New Environmental Paradigm (2018 ELI-Miriam Hamilton Keare Policy Forum)

October 23, 2018 4:00 pm — 5:30 pm
Washington, DC

The 2018 ELI-Miriam Hamilton Keare Policy Forum

Our audience joined ELI and expert panelists as we embraced and explored this fascinating moment in time when divergent forces—private environmental governance, law, technologies, and communities—are coming together, and allowing us to harness their combined power in a new environmental paradigm.

On the first Earth Day in 1970, Sen. Edmund Muskie called for “A total strategy to protect the total environment.” At that time – and for several decades – the overarching approach was one of regulatory compliance, largely directed by government. Today, technology has enabled companies to improve their environmental performance and citizens to track it, while a connected global network has catalyzed knowledge-based economies. Companies are looking at environmental performance in more holistic ways than the regulatory structure demands. Citizens can access, collect, and broadcast data on environmental quality, whether or not this data is accepted for compliance purposes. What constituted a strategy fifteen, or even ten, years ago—analyze, plan, execute—no longer works in operating environments that are increasingly unpredictable, fragmented, and characterized by high rates of technological change, big data, crowd communication, young industries, and an incessant drive for competitive advantage. For example, science and technology are moving forward at such a fast pace that there is a gap between advances and society’s ability to process and manage the information, never mind establish meaningful controls.

Today, the parameters of a “total strategy” are at last coming into view. To create meaningful and effective environmental protection, the combined power of private environmental governance, law, technologies, and communities needs to be harnessed to hedge against uncertainties, build resilience and organizational flexibility, and reduce surprises. How should we institutionalize this new paradigm? How do we make better use of citizen-generated data? How can the voluntary commitments by companies be further internalized into algorithms that drive energy and environmental decisions in facilities and supply chains? How can law-based systems anticipate and prevent software tampering and manipulation? And, how do we embed environmental considerations into software design going forward? Instead of utilizing old business models, we need to step back, identify, and embrace new ones. This will require transformational leadership, an experimental mindset, an agile and adaptive development approach, partnerships spanning the public and private sectors, and above all, an openness to embracing a new environmental paradigm.

The ELI forum explored the intersection of private environmental governance, law, technologies, and communities.

Opening Remarks: Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute

Dave Rejeski, Director, Technology, Innovation and the Environment Project, Environmental Law Institute (Moderator)
Ann E. Condon, Visiting Scholar, Environmental Law Institute
Paul E. Hagen, Principal, Beveridge & Diamond PC
Dr. Adrienne L. Hollis, Director of Federal Policy, WE ACT for Environmental Justice
John Lovenburg, Vice President, Environmental, BNSF Railway
Michael G. Mahoney, Vice President, Assistant General Counsel, and Chief Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) Compliance Counsel, Pfizer Inc.
Michael P. Vandenbergh, Director, Climate Change Research Network, Co-director, Energy, Environment, and Land Use Program. Law Professor, Vanderbilt University

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