Environmental Regulation with Supply Chains: Comparing Private and Public Regulation
19 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2013 Last revised: 25 Oct 2014
Date Written: August 28, 2013
Twenty years ago, a discussion of environmental regulation and the broader concept of environmental governance would have focused entirely on the role of government. Through laws like the US Clean Air Act and Toxic Substances Control Act, regulation forced accountability on private firms. In the last few decades, the institutional landscape for environmental governance has changed. Public regulation still may dominate, but it is complemented by institutional developments and practices that illustrate the concept of "government without governance." Until quite recently, public policy literature on intergovernmental relations focused on the benefits of the public sector collaborating vertically across national, sub-national, regional and local governments. Some recent focus has shifted to studying collaboration horizontally across the private and non-governmental sector. There has also been a growing interest in the study of networks, public private partnerships, and cross-sector collaborations to address complex policy problems. However, the literature has given less attention to collaboration within the private sector for environmental management, especially across its supply chain. The paper builds on existing literature on public policy, networks, and environmental collaborative governance to illustrate the impetus for a collaborative supply chain network for environmental management; analyze similarities between public and private regulation; and provide a framework for linking future collaborative networks for environmental management. The paper uses data from a series of interviews and an dialogue session convened by the authors to analyze the effects of supply chain management on chemicals use and innovation; the comparisons with government regulation, in terms of the opportunities for collaboration, throughout the supply chain; and the perceptions within industry of the differences between public private sector regulation. Among the findings are that supply chain relationships may be as significant a source of pressure as government regulation; that consultation within the supply chain is ad hoc and a source of uncertainty; and that the sources of supply chain pressures often lack an understanding of the complexities of chemical use within the semiconductor industry. The results of the study have important policy implications for the different policy actors interested in building strong collaborative networks for environmental management.
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