The Ecologization of Business Law

Economic law and environmental law have long been presented as independent fields. Their evolution has indeed been framed by a strong endeavor of mutual autonomization.

Starting in the 19th century, economic regulations have been progressively reshaped in order to make sure that companies and markets would be as protected as possible from government interventions (be they economic, social, or environmental). This project has resulted in a series of reforms which, from the 19th century to the present day, have favored industrialization and economic globalization. At the end of this process, the conviction grew stronger that the essential purpose of economic law would be to guarantee free competition and economic growth.

Starting in the 1960’s, environmental law has been framed as a new branch of the legal system targeted at protecting ecosystems and essentially based on highly directive instruments of administrative constraints. Until then, much of the regulation that we retrospectively describe as "environmental" could just as well be described as "economic". Indeed, the aim was to make the risks and damage caused by the triumphant industrialization socially acceptable, more than to preserve ecosystems or the health of populations.

At the end of this phenomenon of double autonomization, the legal system seemed to have transposed the economic distinction between the sphere of free markets (economic law) and that of government intervention to tackle negative externalities (environmental law). The highly disciplinary curricula proposed in law schools have fueled mutual ignorance among specialists in economic and environmental law.

This distinction between economic law and environmental law has, however, become less clear-cut over the last twenty years. The rapprochement at work has been accelerated in recent years as a reaction to the ever more numerous and violent manifestations of the ecological crisis caused by the modes of production and consumption associated with financialized and globalized capitalism. In this context, the research project is targeted at advancing reflection on the increasing integration of environmental issues within economic law. While adopting a critical and transdisciplinary perspective, it will follow six objectives:

  1. Analyze the integration of environmental issues within economic law,
  2. Officialize the birth of a research field, environmental economic law, and draw up a cartography of it,
  3. Establish a typology of ecological transition models that inspire the integration of economic and environmental law,
  4. Propose a systemic vision of environmental regulation models that underpin environmental economic law,
  5. Measure the integration of ecological transition in the teaching of economic law (sociological survey),
  6. Develop several reform scenarios, based on the different ecological transition models identified.