Corporate Social Responsibility
Full course description
This course will offer a comprehensive analysis of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as the main normative concept expressing the relation between business and society in a globalisation context. The following subjects will be studied and discussed:
- The conceptual and historical foundations of CSR, its substance and analytical focus
- CSR as a heuristic for understanding transformations of law under globalization
- The current global regulatory landscape for corporations and the changing corporate structure; CSR as a normative claim for regulating corporations globally
The relation between CSR and the law with a particular focus on
- public international and human rights law (UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the debate surrounding an internationally binding instrument, corporate human rights litigation in national courts)
- international economic law (OECD Guidelines and National Contact Points, CSR in investment treaties and arbitration)
- company law and the developments towards CSR-oriented disclosure rules, due diligence, and sustainable corporate governance
- civil law (tort and contract law) including its private international law dimension and its enforcement in courts and arbitration
The relevance of CSR in private regulation with a particular focus on
- corporate and industry self-regulation
- corporate group policies and supply chain management
- private multi-party CSR agreements (such as the Bangladesh Accord)
- multi-stakeholder initiatives
A critical evaluation on CSR as a normative concept and its conceptual foundations and the alternatives in which the relation between business and society is expressed
The course is compulsory for all students enrolled in the Master Globalization and Law, as it touches upon a subject that is at the intersection between the legal regulation of corporate and commercial activity, international human rights law and international economic law. The course thus asks students of each of the tracks to think about international business activity and their regulation in the interest of society in a different way than what their respective focus of study suggests. For students enrolled in the corporate and commercial law track the course aims to contextualize the social dimension of business activity; for students focusing primarily on human rights law the aim is to better understand the prospects and limits of integrating companies as actors into international (human rights) law; for students of international economic law this course should lead to identifying the societal implications of global trade activities and their related regulation.
Students will obtain a general understanding of the concept of CSR, its role for globally operating companies and its relation to the law. By the end of the course, you should be able to:
- understand the concept of CSR, its origin, its substantive content, its legal dimensions and the relevance of the concept for the debate on globalization and law.
- understand and critically analyse national laws applicable to companies, specifically company, tort, and contract law, in relation to the social responsibility.
- understand and critically analyse the impact of private international law on the legal regulation of companies.
- understand the shift in corporate organization towards globally operating corporate groups, supply-chains and value chains and the related changes for corporate liability in human rights, tort and contract law.
- understand the different regulatory techniques currently employed in law to foster corporate adoption of CSR, such as reporting and due diligence laws, and further access to remedy for those affected by corporate human rights violations.
- understand and critically analyse the international legal dimension of CSR, in particular the role and place of companies in international law, the regulation of business responsibility for human rights (business and human rights) and sustainability in international soft and hard law.
- understand the relation between national and international law-making regarding the social responsibility of corporations and the interaction between law-making and enforcement on an international and national level.
- understand and critically analyse the merits and weaknesses of private regulation for CSR and understand the legal effects that private regulation of CSR has.
The course is taught in lectures and tutorials. In the lecture, you will be given the general background of a particular topic while in the tutorials you will work with case studies and specific problems to obtain a deeper understanding of the topic.
A basic understanding of international law, human rights law, and private law (corporate law, tort law, contract law and private international law) are required.
The literature will mainly be based on a compilation of articles. As the literature, legislation and case law in this field is rapidly evolving, there are no up-to-date comprehensive textbooks on the issue. The following books can be consulted on the topic but do not constitute the required reading for this course.
Lisbeth Enneking, Ivo Giesen, Anne-Jetske Schaap, Cedric Ryngaert, Francois Kristen & Lucas Roorda (eds), Accountability, International Business Operations, and the Law, Routledge 2019.
Horatia Muir Watt, Lucia Bíziková, Agatha Brandao de Oliveira, Diego P. Fernández Arroyo (eds), Global Private International Law: Adjudication without Frontiers, Edward Elgar 2019.
Katharina Pistor, The Code of Capital, Princeton University Press 2019.
Vibe Ulfbeck, Alexandra Andhov & Katerina Mitkidis (eds), Law and Responsible Supply Chain Management, Routledge 2019.
Birgit Spießhofer, Responsible Enterprise: The Emergence of a Global Economic Order, C.H.Beck/Nomos 2018.
Juan José Álvarez Rubio & Katerina Yiannibas (eds), Human Rights in Business: Removal of Access to Justice in the European Union, Routledge 2017.
Andreas Rühmkorf, Corporate Social Responsibility, Private Law and Global Supply Chains, Edward Elgar 2015.
Jeremy Moon, Corporate Social Responsibility: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press 2015.
John Ruggie, Just Business, Multinational Corporations and Human Rights, W.W. Norton & Company 2013.
Peter Muchlinski, Multinationals and the Law, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press 2007.
In addition, there are several useful internet resources on CSR. The most prominent and comprehensive website on business and human rights is the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. This website contains an overview of legal cases and related informative links to additional resources, in-depth debates on recent topics and legislative action on an international and national level. Moreover, the website Business & Human Rights in Law provides a good overview on the developments in case law and legislation on a national level, but please note that the website is only partly updated and therefore contains not always up-to-date information. The Doing Business Right Blog from the Asser Institute is a platform in which academics and practitioners provide opinions and background on the topic of CSR. This blog also contains monthly reports with the most important updates in the field. We encourage you to consult these websites if you are in need of background information rather than googling concepts or relying on Wikipedia. Finally, a leading academic journal in the field is the Business and Human Rights Journal that publishes academic articles, case notes, notes on recent legislation and book reviews in the area of business and human rights.