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close this bookPartners in Time? Business, NGOs and Sustainable Development (UNRISD, 1999, 85 p.)
close this folderPart 2: Toward civil regulation
close this folderGovernmental Policy Frameworks for Civil Regulation
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentGovernment as Facilitator
View the documentToward Global Private Regulation
View the documentOther Policy Options and Obstacles
View the documentConclusion


In part 2 of this paper, we have argued that:

· corporate environmentalism is a political phenomenon;

· through the politics of both pressure and engagement, NGOs are creating the new agenda for business, as much as companies are themselves;

· the political power of NGOs is not a passing fad but an expression of a new form of consumer politics which is the result of social, economic and cultural change;

· by describing a continuum of protest and partnership relations between business and NGOs we can observe a new form of regulation for global business, called civil regulation;

· civil regulation organizations, like the FSC and MSC, will probably be replicated in other industrial sectors and come to be known as systems of global private regulation;

· these developments rely on the sensitivities of Northern markets, thereby limiting the extent of their impact on the developing world;

· changes in the global economy mean that governments need to assume a greater role as leaders and facilitators, but they are in danger of negotiating that role away through trade and investment agreements such as the MAI;

· the uncertainty that surrounds the issue of corporate environmentalism suggests the need for greater international collaboration in this area.

This paper has explored the potential and limits of business-NGO partnership and civil regulation as new tools to promote corporate responsibility for sustainable development. At the close of the twentieth century, the jury is still out on the role of such initiatives - and indeed of business itself - in the sustainable development process. It could even be said that the jury is still hearing the evidence for and against. Those who wish to prosecute business can present a catalogue of environmental disasters, human rights abuses, worker health and safety violations, etc. Those who wish to defend the role of partnership can present a growing array of policy statements, environmental and social projects, civil regulation schemes and other fledgling initiatives. What this paper shows is that we cannot deliver a verdict at this time, and there is a need to collect more evidence for a fair trial. Eventually we may find that “business” and “partnership” should not be the only ones on trial but instead a cadre of company managers, government officials, United Nations experts, NGO campaigners, voters and consumers, who individually and collectively could be doing much more to promote a more sustainable and equitable future.