Private Environmental Standard Setting, Human Rights, and Human Communities

116 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2014

See all articles by Errol Meidinger

Errol Meidinger

University at Buffalo Law School

Date Written: 2000


Private organizations have recently established numerous programs aimed at improving the environmental performance of industry. Many of the new programs seek to define and enforce standards for environmental management, and to make it difficult for producers not to participate in them. They claim, explicitly and implicitly, to promote the public interest. They take on functions generally performed by government regulatory programs, and may change or even displace government programs. Private programs thus have the potential to significantly reshape domestic and international policy institutions.

This paper describes three major private environmental regulatory programs applicable to forestry and discusses their implications for environment, human rights, and community: the Forest Stewardship Council's forest and forest product certification program; the International Organization for Standardization's "ISO 14000" program; the American Forest and Paper Association's Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

The paper concludes, among other things, that each of the programs has some potential for improving the environmental performance of forest enterprises, but that only the FSC program offers much hope of strengthening the protection of human rights and the participation of communities in forestry. Indeed the ISO and AF&PA programs seem designed to narrow the human rights concerns that firms must take into account, and to dampen the participation of communities by helping firms to "manage" community concerns more effectively. If one program were to prevail, it would likely be the ISO program, based on its superior organizational and financial resources. However, rather than being entirely separate, these and other programs compete with and complement each other in a larger regulatory arena. It is possible that one or more hybrids combining elements several programs will emerge over time. The paper also discusses problems posed by the growing role of private regulatory programs for equity, law, and democracy.

Keywords: Forest Stewardship Council, FSC, Certification, Environmental Management Systems, Group Certification, Certification Patterns, Certification Process, Human Rights, American Forest and Paper Association, Verification, Logging, Private Environmental Regulation, Regulatory Programs, Democracy, Law

Suggested Citation

Meidinger, Errol, Private Environmental Standard Setting, Human Rights, and Human Communities (2000). Buffalo Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2000, SUNY Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2000-101, Available at SSRN:

Errol Meidinger (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

520 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States
716-645-6692 (Phone)
716-645-2064 (Fax)

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics