The Market for Treaties

Research output: Article


Corporations are consumers of treaty law. In this article, I empirically examine three biodiversity treaty regimes - the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar Convention, and World Heritage Convention - to demonstrate that corporations implement or internalize treaty norms in a variety of ways that are not captured by the dominant model of treaty implementation – national implementation. As an exegetical model, I explore how corporations use biodiversity treaties as a source of private environmental standards. I focus on the interactions between mining and oil and gas companies and biodiversity treaties, as revealed through transactional documents, corporate reports, security law filings, and treaty secretariat reports. My central claim is that treaties provide a vital, but overlooked, point of interaction between intergovernmental environmental law and transnational law as developed by private actors. This article reveals that the gravitational pull of treaties on private actors is differentially experienced. The shadow of law (both national and international) works variably across different companies, different industries and different geographies. And the same companies that are 'dumbing down' treaty meanings in one context may be advancing tools that promote stronger and deeper implementation of these same treaty norms in another. While the empirical record is thus littered with inconsistencies and seeming contractions, one thing is clear: the implications of corporate channelling of treaty meanings and obligations are significant for international law far beyond the context of biodiversity conventions. Growing pressure to define acceptable standards of environmental and social behavior for companies is creating a robust market for 'international standards' – a market for treaties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-196
JournalChicago Journal of International Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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