Consultants, The Environment, and The Law

Conventional wisdom assumes that private-sector businesses will oppose, undermine, or distort government regulation. That assumption also underpins many areas of theoretical inquiry; theorists commonly assume that effective public-law regimes must be protected from the self-interested machinations of businesses, or that such protection is such a lost cause that most public regulation is doomed to fail. This Article investigates a different set of relationships between businesses and regulation. It does so by using the environmental consulting industry, which helps businesses and governments comply with environmental regulations, as a case study. An empirical inquiry into two subfields of the industry reveals that for-profit, private-sector actors can play distinctive and active roles in public-law regimes, and that these distinctive roles are motivated by a combination of economic incentives and cultural orientation. These findings have direct implications for several areas of inquiry, including studies of public choice theory, privatization, social movements, and the historic evolution of environmental regulation. Most importantly, they reveal how private actors can bolster public law.