Making America A Better Place for All: Sustainable Development Recommendations for the Biden Administration

March 2021

Washington, D.C.: In 2015, the United Nations Member States, including the United States, unanimously approved 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030. These Goals are nonbinding, and each nation is to implement them based on its own priorities and circumstances. In the April issue of ELR—The Environmental Law Reporter, 22 experts recommend steps the Biden-Harris Administration should take now to advance each of the SDGs, both domestically and abroad.

Making America A Better Place for All argues that the Goals are a critical normative framework the United States should use to improve human quality of life, freedom, and opportunity by integrating its economic and social development with environmental protection. The diverse group of authors seeks to contribute to a robust public discussion about how to accelerate the transition to a sustainable society and make America a better place for all.

“This article demonstrates, sector by sector, how promises to improve Americans’ lives can be consistent with our international commitment to sustainable development,” said Jay Austin, ELR’s editor-in-chief. The collective effort was led by Prof. John Dernbach, Director of the Environmental Law and Sustainability Center at Widener University Commonwealth School of Law, and Prof. Scott Schang, Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Wake Forest University School of Law and Senior Director for Corporate Engagement at Landesa. 

“The United States faces significant headwinds with economic and racial inequality, spikes in hunger and poverty, political polarization, and declines in infrastructure reliability and environmental protection. In this context, the SDGs provide an important framework for measuring current U.S. progress, lack of progress, or backsliding toward sustainability,” write Dernbach and Schang in their introduction. “While the COVID-19 pandemic is an enormous setback for public health, economic development, and other SDGs, the SDGs also provide a framework for recovery, including inclusive growth, a strengthened public health system, and clean energy.”

Contributing experts include: 

  • Robert Adler, Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law
  • Karol Boudreaux, Chief Program Officer at Landesa
  • John Bouman, Director of Legal Action Chicago
  • Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, Chief Executive Officer of Feeding America
  • Kimberly Brown, Associate Director of the Rule of Law Program at the Carter Center
  • Mikhail Chester, Associate Professor at the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Arizona State University
  • Mark Dorosin, Managing Attorney of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Michael Gerrard, Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice and Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School
  • Stephen Herzenberg, Executive Director at the Keystone Research Center
  • Samuel Markolf, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California-Merced
  • Corey Malone-Smolla, a Policy Specialist at Feeding America
  • Jane Nelson, Director of the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School
  • Uma Outka, Associate Dean, Faculty, and William R. Scott Law Professor at the University of Kansas School of Law
  • Tony Pipa, Senior Fellow at the Center for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institution
  • Alexandra Phelan, Assistant Professor at Georgetown University Medical Center and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University Law Center
  • LeRoy Paddock, Distinguished Professorial Lecturer in Environmental Law at George Washington University Law School and Managing Director at the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement
  • Jonathan Rosenbloom, Professor of Law at Vermont Law School
  • William Snape, Professor at American University, Washington College of Law, and Senior Counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity
  • Anastasia Telesetsky, Professor at California Polytechnic State University
  • Gerald Torres, Professor of Environmental Justice and Professor of Law at Yale Law School
  • Elizabeth Kronk Warner, Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law
  • Audra Wilson, President and Chief Executive Officer at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law

The article is part of a forthcoming book that will recommend not only federal actions, but also actions by state and local governments, the private sector, and civil society. 

Making America A Better Place for All: Sustainable Development Recommendations for the Biden Administration is available for free download at

John Dernbach and Scott Schang are available for interview.