Redefining Corporate Social Responsibility in an Era of Globalization and Regulatory Hardening
38 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2017
Date Written: August 1, 2017
Globalization and the growth of multinational enterprises (MNEs) has been accompanied by an increasing call for corporations to take responsibility for their environmental and social impacts, and for greater corporate disclosure and transparency with regard to non-financial risks (collectively known as corporate social responsibility, or CSR). At the same time, governments have increasingly turned to mandatory obligations for formerly voluntary CSR engagement, a trend we call the legalization of CSR. This article analyzes the “hardening” and legalization of CSR, and considers what this process tells us about norms and assumptions regarding the social responsibility of firms in the United States and around the world. Through our analysis of corporate trends, regulations, and case law from the United States, European Union, China, and India, we argue that the process of legalization and redefinition of CSR through a shareholder primacy lens may, troublingly, undermine the very notion of corporate social responsibility. In the face of these trends, this article redefines CSR with a reference to a fresh commitment to corporations’ social and ethical responsibility to society.
Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility, Globalization, Ethics, Regulation
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