A New Social Contract for Governing Industrial Risk in the Community

Michael Baram, Boston Univeristy School of Law


Despite extensive regulation of hazardous industrial activities, residents of many communities that host these activities fear risks to their health and safety and suffer impacts that degrade the local environment. The concept of a New Social Contract (NSC) is presented as a supplement to regulation. It would involve company-community negotiation of an agreement, either enforceable or trust based, that provides company commitments to address the local risks and impacts. The concept is then examined with reference to experience with the negotiation of "good neighbor agreements" and the corporate social responsibility movement, and followed by discussion of the negotiation process for securing company commitments and implementation issues. Recommendations based on best practices and lessons learned from relevant experience are then presented for optimal use of the NSC concept.