The Gap-Filling Role of Private Environmental Governance: A Case Study of Semiconductor Supply Chain Contracting

By Roberts, Cassie D. | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, March 2018 | Go to article overview

The Gap-Filling Role of Private Environmental Governance: A Case Study of Semiconductor Supply Chain Contracting


Roberts, Cassie D., Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


TABLE OF CONTENTS  I.     INTRODUCTION                                                  592 II.    FOCUSING IN ON THE SEMICONDUCTOR INDUSTRY                     593          A. Introduction to the Semiconductor                        593             Industry          B. Why Does This Industry Serve as a                        594             Fitting Case Study? III.   GOVERNING INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL                         595        AGREEMENTS          A. The Basel Convention                                     596          B. The Rotterdam Convention                                 597          C. The Stockholm Convention                                 598          D. Where These Conventions Stand in the United States       600          E.  Summary of the Governing International                  600              Environmental Agreements IV.    PRIVATE ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE IN THE                       601        ELECTRONICS INDUSTRY          A. What Function Does Private                               601             Environmental Governance Serve?          B. The Growing Role of Private             Environmental Governance in             Supply Chain Contracting                                 605                 1. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol's Scope 3 Standard    606                 2. The Marine Stewardship                            608             Council's Blue Label Sustainable             Seafood Initiative                 3. How is Private Environmental                      610             Governance Making an             Appearance in Semiconductor             Industry Supply Agreements?                 4. Summary of Private                                618             Environmental Governance             in the Semiconductor Industry V.     METHODOLOGY & FINDINGS                                        618 VI.    WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR FUTURE                          622        REGULATION OF HAZARDOUS WASTES AND        SUBSTANCES IN THE SEMICONDUCTOR INDUSTRY? VII.   CONCLUSION                                                    623 

I. INTRODUCTION

Companies must conform to various standards of conduct, stemming from domestic legal requirements, foreign laws and the norms of the countries in which they operate, and rules and regulations promulgated by a wide array of influential nongovernmental organizations. To the extent those norms and laws are reflected in international environmental agreements that have not been implemented in the United States, American companies are vulnerable to legal challenge or decreased business opportunities if they comply only with domestic legal requirements.

Enter private environmental governance, which interacts with public environmental governance in a variety of ways, including supplementing, superseding, undermining, or simply filling in gaps inherent in many public efforts. Instead of merely reacting to continually evolving global environmental standards, semiconductor firms have embraced private environmental governance by proactively implementing self-regulating standards to minimize any adverse impact external intervention might have on their supply chains and manufacturing operations more generally. These self-regulating standards are not uniform across the semiconductor industry; instead, individual manufacturers develop their own standards with which they then require their suppliers to comply.

The objective of this Note is to determine the role supply chain contracting plays in private environmental governance, primarily by analyzing the documents governing toxic chemicals that accompany supply chain agreements. In addition, this Note relies on sustainability reports, annual reports, and other publicly available information provided by American semiconductor firms that illuminate how these firms communicate the presence of toxics in their supply chains to the public and how they attempt to regulate those toxics. …

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