Professor Erika George Delivers Distinguished Annual Lloyd K. Garrison Lecture on Environmental Law

November 17, 2021
Professor Erica George

Professor Erika George delivered the Annual Lloyd K. Garrison Lecture on Environmental Law on Monday, November 15, on "Incorporating Human Rights: Corporate Responsibility, Equity, and Just Environments." The Lloyd K. Garrison Lecture on Environmental Law was established in 1995 in memory of Lloyd K. Garrison, a pioneer in the field. Professor Erika George is the Samuel D. Thurman Professor of Law at S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. 

Smita Narula, Haub Distinguished Professor of International Law, a fellow colleague and long-time friend since law school, had the pleasure of introducing Professor George, a respected scholar and an expert on international law and human rights. Having attended many of her lectures, Professor Narula commented that Professor George “consistently elevates the caliber of the conversation and seamlessly weaves and uplifts the contributions of others into her dialog. She is a dedicated teacher and a thoughtful and generous scholar. She is celebrated by her students and deeply committed to teaching as a craft. We are honored to have had her deliver our Annual Garrison Lecture on Environmental Law.” 

Professor George’s lecture focused on the necessity and obligation to incorporate human rights into corporate responsibility. “There are no rights recognized that are not impacted by the business practices and policies of global capital,” she said. 

She noted that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved without private sector participation and that the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights call on business enterprises to respect human rights by addressing adverse environmental and human rights impacts related to business operations. Shareholder activism and actions by institutional investors has been successful in progressing environmental and human rights initiatives. For example, “Exxon experienced a shock when they lost two board seats to an upstart hedge fund, Engine No. 1. In years previous, they lost a proposal to the New York State Pension Fund requiring reporting on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Professor George projects that we are poised for a significant shift in thinking following the effects of the pandemic. “The devastation of COVID-19 really surfaced for industries their vulnerabilities. Essential workers were the most vulnerable and were being treated as expendable, making it difficult for their operations to continue business as usual,” she said. “Where there are intersecting interests between investors and the stakeholders, there is possibility to influence change in positive ways.”

Professor George also noted that, “When natural resources are managed responsibly the resulting economic development can help to eradicate poverty and promote prosperity; but, when resources are managed poorly—without incorporating respect for human rights—industry sector practices can generate or exacerbate environmental degradation, corruption, and conflict. Human rights and environmental challenges are connected. Investors and advocates can and should leverage corporate and securities laws to promote climate action and accountability for human rights abuses.”

“Haub Law is committed to encouraging and promoting sustainable business opportunities and recognizes the interconnection between human rights and the environmental crisis that we are facing today. Professor George’s lecture reaffirmed that opportunities for training, policy, and research addressing global environmental challenges through corporate sustainability efforts are key to promoting climate action,” said Gilbert and Sarah Kerlin Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law and Executive Director of Environmental Law Programs Jason Czarnezki. 

Horace E. Anderson Jr., Dean of the Elisabeth Haub School of Law, said “Professor George’s lecture honed in on the urgent need for action regarding change and the vital role that the corporate community should play in moving us forward in addressing the climate crisis. We are honored to have had her deliver our annual Garrison Lecture on Environmental Law and bring awareness to this important topic.” 

More than 200 participants joined the event virtually, including environmental scholars and law students from across the globe, and eagerly submitted questions for a Q&A session following the lecture. Several questions focused on the mandatory human rights/environmental due diligence directive emerging in the European Union. In addition, law students shared concerns about how to build a business case for human and environmental rights when institutional investors act solely on value, not values.

Professor George pointed out that an intergenerational wealth transfer is coming and this, combined with greater accountability, will pave the way for change. “Investors vote value, but value shifts with what our values are,” she said, pointing to elevated costs and reputational implications for human rights violations facing corporations today. “[New generations] can make demands and you can make a difference. You are not powerless.” 

Professor Erika George is the Director of the Tanner Humanities Center and the Samuel D. Thurman Professor of Law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. George earned a bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of Chicago and a JD from Harvard Law School, where she served as articles editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. She also holds a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Chicago. Prior to joining the S.J. Quinney College of Law, George served as a law clerk for Judge William T. Hart on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, as a litigation associate for the law firms of Jenner & Block in Chicago and Coudert Brothers LLP in New York City, and as a fellow and later consultant to Human Rights Watch. Her research focuses on human rights and international law and her book Incorporating Rights, recently published by Oxford University Press, examines strategies to advance corporate accountability.




Lloyd K. Garrison Lecture History

Over forty-five years ago, Lloyd K. Garrison and his associate, Albert K. Butzel, of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, won the landmark decision to preserve Storm King Mountain on the Hudson River. This victory for the Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference did more than safeguard "an area of unique beauty and major historical importance" - it inaugurated what today we recognize as the field of environmental law.

Standing in court to protect nature, citizen suit legislation, the environmental impact statement process, and the balancing of economics with the preservation of scenic beauty and historic resources: these are all rooted in Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference v. Federal Power Commission, 354 F.2d 608 (2d Cir. 1965). The Lloyd K. Garrison Lecture celebrates the vision, public spirit and life of this attorney whose legal acumen led citizens in their successful advocacy of environmental quality at Storm King.

Lloyd K. Garrison passed away in 1991. For all his 93 years, Garrison devoted his brilliance and indefatigable energy to building a humane and caring society, respectful of the Rule of Law. Consistent with this dedication, Lloyd K. Garrison took up the citizens’ call to represent the Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference in its struggle to protect the Hudson River Gorge at Storm King Mountain. With characteristic enthusiasm he championed public participation rights for the community’s environmental interest, just as he did for civil rights and liberties. The Scenic Hudsonvictory is a living testament to Garrison's ever hopeful spirit.

The Lloyd K. Garrison Lecture on Environmental Law was established in his memory in 1995, four years after his death, and continues in his honor.


About Elisabeth Haub School of Law

Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University offers JD and Masters of Law degrees in both Environmental and International Law, as well as a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) in Environmental Law. The school, housed on the University’s campus in White Plains, N.Y., opened its doors in 1976 and has more than 9,000 alumni around the world. The school maintains a unique philosophy and approach to legal education that strikes an important balance between practice and theory. Haub Law launched its Environmental Law Program in 1978, and it has long been ranked among the world’s leading university programs, with a current #1 ranking by U.S. World and News Report. Pace’s doctoral graduates teach environmental law at universities around the world. Pace’s JD alumni are prominent in environmental law firms, agencies and non-profit organizations across the U.S. and abroad. In 2016, the Law School received a transformational gift from the family of Elisabeth Haub, in recognition of its outstanding environmental law programs. For more information about Haub Law, visit:

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