Ben Cashore

Professor, Environmental Governance & Political Science; Director of the Governance, Environment, and Markets Initiative at Yale (GEM) and Director, Program on Forest Policy and Governance

Teaching Statement

I have developed an ambitious number of classes, all of which are united in encouraging students to understand and appreciate the role of different disciplinary and analytical lenses in shedding light on important problems and challenges faced by those wishing to shape forestry, environmental and natural resource management.

A common theme in my classes is to teach students the distinction between explaining versus prescribing. I urge students to first become “scientists” by describing and explaining the processes in which they are involved. Such an approach often paves the way for uncovering “win/win” or innovative policy prescriptions – discoveries crucial to the future of forestry and environmental management. I also devote considerable attention as a thesis advisor on topics including the development of transnational policy networks and issues of legitimacy, private authority in forestry and fisheries sectors, climate change science and policy, corporate environmental information reporting requirements, and research on the fragmented nature of global environmental governance.


  1. Natural Resources Policy Analysis and Administration (Now known as Policy Analysis for an Unpredictable World).  The course provides a survey of public policy theory and practice, especially as related to development and implementation of environmental and natural resource public policy. The course examines competing general theories of policy formation; the intricacies of the policy making process; the history of environmental policy; and applied techniques in policy analysis and evaluation. The course is designed to provide both a theoretical and practical introduction to environmental public policy. Upon completion students are expected to understand the political environment within which public policy is formulated, including the role of ideas, science and learning. Students also will be able to demonstrate basic technical competence in the environmental public policy development and the implementation process.   

  2. Forest Policy.  This course explores forest policy, defined as how “governments and private governance systems influence the use of forest resources in comparative and global perspective. The course emphasizes the influence of the increasingly globalized nature of forest resource policy, in North America in a comparative perspective. It assess how the source and scope of scrutiny has been steadily growing, by explored attention to, private forest land management, and to emerging non-governmental organizations in North America, Europe, and internationally. The course includes attention to trade conflicts including the US-Canada softwood lumber trade dispute.

  3. International Environmental Policy and Governance (FES 245b).  The class is part of our School’s contribution to Yale College’s undergraduate program and includes an overview of the institutions and policies that have developed internationally.

  4. Seminar on Forest Certification (FES 521b).  This class is designed to address and assess the role that forest certification has played in advancing sustainable forestry. The class begins with the institutional and policy aspects of forest certification, and finishes with an on the ground tour of a certified forest and a presentation for auditors about the challenges and opportunities in assessing sustainable forestry operations.

  5. Comparing Environmental Governance Across Countries: Theory and Evidence (FES 594).  This course was developed in response to student demand and faculty requests that I teach such a class. The course surveys the major theories of the policy process and assesses them again empirical case studies drawn from both developed and developing countries. The class was taught for the first time in the fall of 2003.

  6. The New Corporate Social Responsibility: Public Problems, Private Solutions, and Strategic Responses (FES 85023a ).  Taught in the Fall of 2006.The focus of this class is to assesses the proliferation of policy innovations aimed at promoting and encouraging “corporate social responsibility” (CSR). The class defines CSR broadly to include the broad and diverse range of self and civil regulation, voluntary instruments, private authority and non-state market driven (NSMD) initiatives that have emerged in the last 15 year to engage firms directly, rather than working through traditional governmental process. Examples include firm level initiatives, industry codes, product codes, third party certification, ethical brands and labels and “clean” investment funds. The course reviews the growing literature on these phenomena that now exists within political science, management, economics, sociology, environmental policy, and law. The aim is to reflect on the broader state of knowledge and emergence questions that have arisen from research on CSR, which, while important, are often disconnected from each other. While the class is interested in assessing the strategic advantage that CSR might bring firms, the emphasis is on whether, and how, CSR initiatives might address enduring policy problems where traditional governmental approaches have been ineffective.


  1. In addition to refining and updating the above classes, I also wish to develop an introductory class on “Political science and the Environment”. This class would assess the range of schools of thought within political science, from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle to political parties to comparative policy development for their insights and contribution to environmental studies, directly or indirectly.