Corporate Social Responsibility Beyond Law, Through Law, for Law

69 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2009

Date Written: March, 27 2009


The adoption of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies is no longer a matter of voluntary practice on the part of business. In one sense it was never really voluntary, being in most cases a response to market pressures and reputational risk. But increasingly CSR is also subject to legal pressure and legal enforcement, not necessarily in the form of conventional state regulation but rather through indirect state pressure and through the use of private law by private actors, sometimes through highly innovative uses of law. This paper analyses and critically assesses the market forces pressing for CSR. It then demonstrates the range of mechanisms being used to foster and enforce 'voluntary' CSR through law. However it also shows a two way relationship between CSR and law with market pressures being used to press for a new sense of responsibility in how business approaches legal compliance, with the emphasis on compliance with the spirit, not just the letter of the law. The paper demonstrates a widening range of governance methods being brought into play to form a new corporate accountability.

Keywords: Corporate social responsibility, company law, accountability, multinational corporations, regulation, compliance, non-governmental organisations, human rights, tax avoidance, law, socio-legal studies, contract supply chain

Suggested Citation

McBarnet, Doreen, Corporate Social Responsibility Beyond Law, Through Law, for Law (March, 27 2009). U. of Edinburgh School of Law Working Paper No. 2009/03, Available at SSRN: or

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