This paper uses the case of corporate non-financial reporting to examine the relationship between private business regulation—that is, regulation by non-state actors—and public policy.
Looking at developments in Europe in particular, I examine the role of organizations like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), and the United Nations Global Compact (GC) in laying the groundwork for mandatory corporate non-financial reporting legislation at both the national and EU level. I argue that these (and other) organizations have commanded much of the agenda-setting and rule-making processes, resulting in new global norms with widespread legitimacy and influence. In turn, I find that public policy builds on the strengths of private regulation while simultaneously addressing its weaknesses, namely problems of implementation and enforcement.
The result is a growing coalescence of support behind newly established rules and frameworks that is likely to influence the behavior of companies, governments, and other organizations far beyond the confines of Europe.