Corporate Compliance in the Age of Environmental Justice

February 24, 2022
Spencer A. Hill, Jr.
The Legal Intelligencer

Since the early 2000’s, climate change and other environmental concerns have been crawling to the forefront of the nation’s political and social agendas. With a focus on some of the country’s largest corporations, corporate sustainability efforts came firmly into view with voluntary efforts to reduce climate impacts and enhance conservation of natural resources. Federal and state rulemaking efforts also began to address greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, the federal government and others placed a greater emphasis on combating corporate fraud and misconduct. In fall 2015, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates issued guidance in the form of a memorandum to Department of Justice prosecutors emphasizing the department’s focus on fighting corporate misconduct and enforcing corporate accountability. Later that year, the United States became one of 196 countries to join the Paris Climate Agreement—a legally binding international treaty aimed at eliminating global warming by peaking greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this two-pronged focus on corporate accountability, the Trump administration was widely thought to have de-emphasized a prosecutorial response to corporate misconduct and environmental enforcement. Likewise, with its efforts to reduce regulatory burdens on development projects, the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement was an action that signaled a less aggressive approach toward climate action.

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