Private Environmental Governance

Corporations and other non-governmental entities now regularly work to develop voluntary agreements, standards and other practices aimed at fostering sustainability and reducing environmental impacts.  This growth in “private governance” is implemented through various vehicles, including collective standard-setting, certifications, supply chain agreements, and other mechanisms. The influence of private governance is broad, impacting industries from electronics to forestry to apparel and many others. As environmental management increasingly relies on voluntary standards, still-evolving notions of sustainability, and changing norms of corporate responsibility, ELI has redoubled its engagement of corporations and includes the corporate perspective in all aspects of our work—from formulating effective and efficient international, national, and local policy and management solutions to educational programming and publications. We are dedicated to advancing the environment and draw from corporate practices to inspire and educate others.

New! ELI Model Environmental Supply Chain Contract Clearinghouse
We are pleased to announce a new project that will develop model environmental supply chain contracts for use by the corporations and other organizations interested in improving their sustainability practices. This space will act as a clearinghouse for researchers to contribute and publicize model contract language and provide contextual information about its use. Our hope is that, over time, this clearinghouse will act as a resource and a space to convene business actors, environmental advocates, and private governance scholars to further develop this important area of work. 

For more information please contact: Steph Tai, (Wisconsin Law School); Michael Vandenbergh (Vanderbilt University Law School); Alan Horowitz (Environmental Law Institute); or Michael Mahoney (Environmental Law Institute)

Materials Management
Minimizing waste generation includes diverting waste streams to reuse and recycling as well as recapturing materials. In devising new approaches for the management of materials and the diversion of wastes under RCRA in the retail sector, managing discarded and returned consumer aerosol cans can trigger RCRA regulation requiring management as hazardous waste. In 2018 ELI examined hazardous waste and recycled product regulation of the retail sector and opportunities for further action in this area.

Corporate Statements
Corporations are also undertaking voluntary efforts to increase their reliance on renewable energy throughout their operations. ELI examined Corporate Statements About the Use of Renewable Energy: What Does the “100% Renewable” Goal Really Mean? (2019), taking a detailed look at voluntary corporate renewable energy goal-setting, reporting, and performance.

Use the menu on the left to learn about other ELI publications and events on private environmental governance.


Dr. Jane Snowdon, Director and Chief Innovation Officer, IBM Federal; Stephen Harper, Global Director of Environment and Energy Policy, Intel Corporation; Robert Francisco, President of FirstCarbon Solutions; and Stewart Leeth, Assistant Vice President, Environmental and Corporate Affairs, Smithfield Foods take part in a panel at "Big Data: A Game Changer for Environmental Managers, Advocates and Regulators?"


"Private standards have played, and will continue to play, a valuable role in addressing the world’s toughest environmental problems. To be most effective, though, standard-setting requires collaboration and collective responsibility from all stakeholders to create innovative solutions to sustainability issues that span the value chain. This means bringing together the disciplines and best thinking on sustainability, advertising, and competition law to work together...."

— Deborah P. Majoras, Chief Legal Officer of The Proctor and Gamble Company, former Chairman of the FTC


"I have argued that private environmental governance is an increasingly important aspect of environmental law and policy, that it is a discrete field worthy of attention by policymakers, practitioners, and theorists, and that it offers new responses to some of the most intractable remaining environmental problems."

— Michael P. Vandenbergh, David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair in Law; Director, Climate Change Research Network; and Co-Director, Energy, Environment and Land Use Program, Vanderbilt University Law School