Defending the right to a healthy planet

aka CIEL   |   Washington, DC   |


The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) uses the power of law to protect the environment, promote human rights, and ensure a just and sustainable society.

Ruling year info


President & CEO

Mr. Carroll Muffett

Main address

1101 15th Street NW, Ste 1100

Washington, DC 20005 USA

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NTEE code info

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (C05)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (C01)

International Human Rights (Q70)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) uses the power of law to protect the environment, promote human rights, and ensure a just and sustainable society.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Environmental Health

The Environmental Health program is deeply engaged in the fight to improve the regulation of toxic chemicals around the world and to prevent actions that will undermine the progress that has been made. The program combines over twenty years of experience working to reform US, EU and global laws for chemical management with recognized expertise in the area of international trade law to protect our right – and the right of future generations – to a healthy planet. To achieve this, we seek to create a stronger legal regime to limit toxic exposure by leveraging progress in one region to accelerate change globally. We have worked with EU partners to push the EU towards bold action on emerging areas of concern, namely endocrine disruptors and nanomaterials. We also work with NGO partners and coalitions in the global south to prevent the leakage of pollution to vulnerable communities with limited resources, and to support communities affected by toxic exposure from industrial processes, like metal mining.

Population(s) Served

The goal of CIEL’s Climate & Energy Program is to develop and use a body of international law to effectively address the threat of climate change while promoting a just and sustainable society. To achieve this goal, we work to hold state and corporate actors responsible for their contributions—both actions and inactions—to climate change; address harms already occurring as a result of climate change; push governments and key financial institutions to take urgent action to mitigate climate change and transition to clean energy sources; build capacity of and provide direct support to affected communities to defend their rights in strategic cases; and work to ensure that measures to address climate change do not harm but rather benefit people and the environment.

Population(s) Served

The People, Land & Resources Program (PLR) seeks to protect and defend the environment and human rights against the adverse impacts of development. We work at all levels – from international to grassroots – to ensure that the laws and policies governing development activities are consistent with those protecting the environment and human rights; and to hold governments and corporations accountable for their actions. Our team scrutinizes the companies that carry out development projects, the banks that finance them, and the governments that promote and regulate them to determine the best legal leverage to protect human rights and the environment. The PLR Program focuses primarily on those development activities that create the greatest risks for land and resource rights, including extractive industries and agribusiness.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Affiliations & memberships

TalentDesk - Best Non-Profits to Work For 2018 2018

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our vision for the world is one where the law reflects the interconnection between humans and the environment, respects the limits of the planet, protects the dignity and equality of each person, and encourages all of earth's inhabitants to live in balance with each other. CIEL's values inspire the strategies that we pursue and how we pursue them. In every aspect of our work, CIEL promotes the rule of law; transparent, just and sustainable processes; balanced economic and political power that protects the rights of communities and the environment; democratic inclusion; intra and inter-generational equity; the interconnectedness of life on the planet; and the intrinsic value of nature and the inherent rights of species and ecosystems.

We have identified four cross-cutting legal approaches through which we can have the greatest impact in supporting our own mission and the work of partners.

Building and strengthening international law and systems to protect human rights and the environment. Global processes must strengthen regional and national systems to ensure effective implementation of international obligations, and to confront regional environmental problems that have global impacts. The best way to respond to these challenges is to ensure that law responds to existing needs, continually adapts to changing realities and, above all, leads to real changes in policy, human behavior and environmental outcomes.

Empowering communities to use international law to defend their rights. Those whose health, families, communities and rights are most vulnerable to environmental threats often have the hardest time responding to them. CIEL has a long track record of assisting such communities in bringing international attention and international action to their concerns, through the use of human rights bodies, accountability mechanisms within international financial institutions, trade dispute panels, and other grievance mechanisms at the international level.

New Strategies and Global Standards for International Financial Flows. Investment now flows across borders through new sources of international finance, such as climate funds and rising investments from sovereign wealth funds, national development banks, and private financial institutions. The World Bank and other IFIs are under increasing pressure to weaken their own human rights and environmental policies or carve out broad exceptions. CIEL has a vital role to play to both in defending the safeguards within existing IFIs and in leveraging these safeguards into new standards for other international financial flows.

Strengthen legal tools to counterbalance corporate power and increase trans-boundary corporate accountability. States are no longer the sole or even the primary actors in international law and policy. Investor protection provisions in trade and investment treaties have given companies new tools to block public interest regulations and to undermine the legitimate public policy choices of States and communities in forums to which the broader public has little or no access. By contrast, the judicial and quasi-judicial tools available to address the trans-boundary harms caused by commercial activities remain weak, slow and difficult to access. CIEL is actively exploring and developing new legal tools to counterbalance the power of multinational corporations and increase trans-boundary corporate accountability.

CIEL is incorporated as a U.S. nonprofit organization designated by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity. CIEL meets the rigorous public accountability standards of the federal government's Combined Federal Campaign, including by conducting an annual audit; completing a Form 990; and publishing an Annual Report made available to the public. CIEL is governed by a seven person Board of Trustees that oversees the general policies, finances and operation of CIEL. CIEL's administrative staff conduct the business of the organization, managing approximately $2.6 million in FY2014. We collaborate with civil society, indigenous peoples, local communities, and NGOs throughout the world, working at local, regional, national and international levels. In our offices in Washington, D.C. and Geneva, Switzerland, we have a staff of 16, including 10 attorneys, a program scientist, and other professional and support personnel. We also have a vibrant intern program. Our methodologies include:

• Rigorous legal analysis
Our path breaking research and analysis helps expand the realm of the possible in applying legal principles and thinking to the world's most pressing environmental challenges. As we have for decades, we will continue making original contributions across all of our program work in defining new uses for law, legal thinking and approaches for achieving environmental objectives.

• Legal advocacy and Litigation
Our attorneys are among the best in the world at representing the interests of communities that aim to right the balance of power on pressing environmental challenges. We represent partners, communities or groups in litigation, participate in mediation, or negotiate on their behalf. We select opportunities where our advocacy can bring meaningful and positive change for our partners while setting broader precedents from which still greater change can arise.

• Connecting the global to the local
Environmental problems are international, the solutions need to be too. At its best, the law can overcome political and economic power imbalances to help ensure communities can protect their rights and their environment in ways that generate larger changes in international policy and practice.

• Lasting partnerships based on mutually respectful collaboration
We work with partners around the world who share our vision. We expend considerable effort to identify partners and work jointly to achieve common goals.

• Education, training, and supporting collaborative research
Sharing knowledge and building capacity has been central to our long-term effort to strengthen the global environmental movement, including training the next generation of public-interest environmental lawyers.

• Effective communications
While masters of the expert language that carries the law, we also interpret complex legal concepts for partners, affected communities, and the general public.

In each of our key result areas, we will measure and evaluate our progress and impact in multiple ways, including by:
o reducing public finance for fossil-fuel based power plants;
o using existing accountability mechanisms to raise the legal barriers to and risks of private investment in fossil fuel based energy sources;
o working with broader environmental community to limit the development of massive, newly-emerging fossil fuel sources;
o supporting communities adversely affected by major fossil fuel extraction or combustion projects;
o laying the groundwork to address the growing role of the United States as a net exporter of fossil fuels and fossil fuel technologies;
o increasing awareness of available recourse mechanisms among affected communities, with a particular focus on communities who are affected by projects financed by international financial institutions;
o seek policies at the World Bank and other development finance institutions that protect human rights and effective mechanisms to apply them;
o bring cases that can catalyze to systemic change, including greater accountability for corporations and financial institutions;
o ensuring legality standards in key importing countries are strong and well enforced;
o equipping forest-dependent communities in exporting countries with the information, tools and support to defend their rights and their forests;
o building stronger standards and monitoring frameworks at the international level while minimizing loopholes and perverse incentives;
o supporting stronger laws, better enforcement, and better safeguards in REDD+ priority countries;
o promoting adherence to strict legality standards among market actors, including through strong chain of custody and transparency standards;
o defending and strengthening international standards and monitoring frameworks being developed in the UN climate talks and beyond;
o advocating for strong chemicals reform legislation in the United States;
o seeking stronger EU leadership for global action on endocrine disrupting chemicals and nanomaterials;
o leading efforts to launch international negotiations begin on global chemicals framework for beyond 2020; and
o developing litigation strategies to hold companies and investors accountable for risks to children's environmental health.



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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Board of directors
as of 11/04/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Dianne Dillon-Ridgley

Board co-chair

Dalindyebo Shabalala

Matthew Butler

Dianne Dillon-Ridgley

Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future

Sharon Eubanks

Bordas & Bordas, PLLC

Dalindyebo Shabalala

University of Dayton School of Law

Tony La Viña

Manila Observatory, Ateneo de Manila University

Yvette Arellano

Fenceline Watch

Conniel Malek

True Costs Initiative

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 11/4/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation


Equity strategies

Last updated: 11/24/2020

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.