Rulemakers & Watchdogs

Those who set the rules, traditionally governments, will always play a critical role. But the groups watching over corporate behavior are now far more diverse than just regulators, and include a wide range of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), politicians, and the legal community. The number and power of these de facto rulemakers is expanding in fascinating and important ways.

An excerpt from Green to Gold (page 68):

"Today, the governmental role is rule-makers and watchdogs expand both vertically and horizontally. By “vertical,” we mean the different levels of government...Down the vertical scale, we find state and local officials who have been more aggressive enforcers of environmental laws than the federal government...At a higher level, we see global agreements like the Kyoto Protocol...The “horizontal” dimension refers to the emergence of new actors tracking environmental performance, such as NGOs...and bloggers with websites read by millions."


The organizations that fall under the very broad name of NGO number at least in the tens of thousands, from the very local (community groups formed to protect one river, say) to the multi-nationals like Greenpeace that can mobilize efforts for or against a company globally. No quick summary of NGOs would do them justice, so we recommend starting by knowing who the big guns are, and understanding their agendas. Here's our list of (and links to) the most influential NGOs in the environmental realm. We've included size of membership and program areas they focus on where available:

Most Influential NGOs in the Environmental Realm

Governments and regulators

The role of regulatory bodies like the EPA or European Commission will continue to shape markets. And individual countries will set their own standards that global companies need to watch (for example, China has set higher fuel efficiency standards for autos than the United States). But regulation is really changing in two fundamental ways: a) the role of states, mayors, and even local planning commissions; b) the kinds of laws in the governmental "toolbox."

First, at the continent or global level, we point to three important laws in the European Union. These new directives mainly affect a few specific industries, like electronics and chemicals, but they foreshadow a general trend. We recommend keeping and eye on:

Down the vertical scale from the federal level, always keep an eye on the state of California and it's air and climate regulations. And even mayors have gotten involved. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has initiated it's own Climate Protection Agreement led by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels (see their site for the latest count and list of mayors signing on and the actual text of the agreement here [PDF: 48k]).

The world's governments are getting more creative over time. Starting with the famous U.S. Toxics Release Inventory in 1987, more governments have pursued innovated "right-to-know" laws, such as Indonesia's PROPER law on factories (a paper from Resources for the Future here [PDF: 124k]).  Other important disclosure laws include the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act and California's Proposition 65 (see also Prop 65 News).