[Online lecture] “You can’t stop the signal”: From the past to the future of digitally mediated sustainability due diligence? - a lecture with Prof. Larry Catá Backer

08 April 2024
  • Starts at: 16:30h
  • Fee: Free
  • Venue: Online
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Regulatory governance is well within a process of transformation from a managerial system deeply embedded in the classical model of the rule-of-law state grounded in positive (or customary) law pronounced by an authoritative body clothed in the legislative power, to the world of the panopticon and the disciplines.

The movement from physical to virtual spaces, from markets to platforms, and from managerialism to techno-bureaucracies in which administrators articulate norms and objectives which are translated by coders into generative systems that then undertake their development and application is proving decisive. That movement is at the heart of the operationalisation of technology enhanced due diligence in the field of business and sustainability (including human rights). These remarks consider the role of technology in the evolution and application of sustainability due diligence systems. That evolution and the shaping of the role of tech within it, is being undertaken within broader changes to the normative and regulatory landscape of collective human social relations.

These include (1) the movement toward alignment of public policy and private activity (especially in the context of economic activities); (2) governmentalisation of private sector activity; (3) the rise of compliance based accountability (quality control) governance; (4) the revolution in the normative valuation of human rights and sustainability as both a set of culturally superior expectations and legal requirements; (5) the revolution in the methods of assessment and accountability; and (6) the migration of these functions from the realms of human-centered textualist language-consciousness to coded data centered systems of assessment against ideals, both of which may be managed by generative intelligence. Each will be considered in turn in the context of sustainability due diligence. 

This lecture is part of our spring academy on technologies of sustainability due diligence.

Larry Catá Backer is W. Richard and Mary Eshelman Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law and International Affairs at Penn State. Professor Backer focuses his research on governance-related issues of globalization and the constitutional theories of public and private governance, with an emphasis on institutional frameworks for public-private law governance systems. Recent work centers on issues of corporate social responsibility, mixed regulatory systems and regulatory governance (especially touching on SOEs and SWFs), the emerging problems of polycentricity where multiple systems might be simultaneously applied to a single issue or event, and problems of translation between Western and Marxist Leninist (especially Chinese and Cuban) constitutional systems.