Institutionalisation of corporate social responsibilities: synergies between the practices of leading multinational enterprises and human rights law/policy

The study accounts for recent developments in corporate voluntarism and assesses the evolving corporate social responsibility (CSR) regime. CSR proposes a new norm for how large businesses should approach complexity in a modern economy. The first chapter anchors the CSR discussion in a company law and corporate governance context. Emphasis is placed on managerial duties and the British Review of Company Law which prompts directors to employ a longer term and more relationship-inclusive way of pursuing the corporate self-interest. The next chapter tracks how this norm has fared in business ethics by contrasting Milton Friedman’s analysis with writings in stakeholder theory. The aim is to highlight valid insights produced by each camp and identify the blind spots this debate has left. Chapter 4 describes steps taken by leading businesses and their stakeholders in an attempt to reconcile profitability with social responsibilities. The emphasis is on emerging best practices in implementing and demonstrating CSR; proactive businesses specify the new norm by offering examples and helping build necessary infrastructure. Chapter 5 presents laws that can strengthen the emerging CSR regime; examples are taken from the fields of corporate governance, environmental protection, criminal law, and social disclosure. The next chapter draws on regulatory theory to explain the regulations discussed in chapter 5. Law aims to alter corporate behaviour but, by not using pure deterrence, the causality is complex; therefore a number of intermediate variables are identified. Chapter 7 is concerned with the evolution of the CSR regime and highlights the importance of corporate transparency, stakeholder participation, and due process as a way to legitimize corporate discretion. Chapter 8 concludes by taking a human rights perspective on CSR where the concept of accountability is central. The CSR regime does not exclude law, but uses also policies, standardization, guidelines, and good industry practice to activate intermediary variables. This regime does not eradicate the roles of states, but is more decentralized as it involves both public and private actors.