Roundtable: Alternative Environmental Governance Models in a Time of State Retrenchment
(Natural Resource, Energy, and Environmental Policy)

Thursday, November 7, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Plaza Building: Lobby Level, Director's Row J (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Yuhao Ba, North Carolina State University
Moderator:  Christopher Galik, North Carolina State University
Speakers:  Lily Hsueh, Arizona State University, Christopher Weible, University of Colorado, Denver, Yuhao Ba, North Carolina State University and Dan Matisoff, Georgia Institute of Technology


The complexity and severity of today’s environmental problems pose challenges on the conventional state-centric governance arrangements, necessitating the participation and cooperation from a variety of non-state actors. Alternative governing arrangements (e.g., collective standard-setting, certifications, and supply chain agreements) have thus emerged as an important supplement to the existing environmental regulatory system (Light & Vandenbergh, 2015). Simultaneously, the current U.S. political environment portends fewer resources and coordinating services for environmentally responsible practices within a conventional state-centric governance system, reinforcing the relevance and necessity of governing efforts from non-state actors.

Research Focus

Among these non-state actors, corporate entities possess a prominent stance given their market and political power, the concomitant social responsibilities (Davis 1960,Scherer and Palazzo 2011), as well as the “tangible and/or intangible” benefits out of performing environmental governance functions (Potoski & Prakash, 2005, p.235). This role can also be attributed to their organizational and institutional flexibility in delivering regulatory solutions (Cashore 2002,Hsueh 2013). In fact, some corporations that have been traditionally posited as the opposite against environmental practices are advocating more active and timelier regulations, beyond the mere compliance with the existing systems (Lyon & Maxwell, 2008). An environmental governance system led by corporate entities may therefore have relevance in areas where state-centric arrangements face challenges. An important distinction between previous iterations of CSR and corporate governance and the model proposed here is the active assertion of corporate environmental leadership as state forces are subject to retrenchment.

Cross-source learning is essential for sustainable governance of complex socio-ecological systems (Weible, Pattison, & Sabatier, 2010). The proposed roundtable session therefore seeks to provide a forum where scholars in the fields of policy sciences and environmental governance can discuss the relevance and the potential of corporate-led governance arrangements, including their functioning rationales, structural configurations, as well we their interplay with state actors (Hsueh, forthcoming). The discussion also features the interaction between corporate-led governance arrangements and environmental policy processes, regarding in particular the changing roles of and venues for different stakeholders, their potential goal conflicts and resolution mechanisms, as well as the technical and philosophical feasibility of different policy instrument. Additionally, the discussion attempts to fuel scholarly debates around the relative performance of alternative environmental governance systems in fostering desired environmental outcomes, as well as the types of research design for their empirical measurements and operational strategies.


The proposed roundtable will contribute to the broad conversation of non-state alternative environmental governance systems in general and corporate environmental involvement in particular. This likewise may foster interdisciplinary collaborations among scholars with different research interests and epistemological stances. The dual lenses of policy sciences and environmental governance will equip scholars and practitioners with policy and managerial implications as well.