Corporate and Securities Law Impact on Social Responsibility and Corporate Purpose

55 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2020 Last revised: 27 Mar 2021

See all articles by Thomas Lee Hazen

Thomas Lee Hazen

University of North Carolina School of Law

Date Written: February 22, 2020


The role of social responsibility in corporate governance has been the subject of debate for nearly ninety years. That debate has been reframed over the decades. Several recent events have resulted in increased focus on corporate social responsibility, especially with respect to publicly held corporations. This article explores the law’s two different paths for impacting social responsibility --, one state and one federal, The current iteration of the corporate responsibility movement has implications for both state law chartering of corporations and federal securities regulation. The article analyzes the ways in which corporate purposes clauses may be useful in addressing social responsibility and other corporate mission issues. This includes a brief discussion of benefit corporation statutes, followed by a discussion of how better use of stated purpose clauses in the articles of incorporation may be a meaningful proxy for opting into benefits corporation statutes This article also traces developments in the securities laws’ approach to corporate social responsibility, including recommending the adoption of a safe harbor rule to encourage corporations to make disclosures relating to social responsibility.

Keywords: corporate governance, corporate purpose, CSR, disclosure, ESG, environmental, materiality, social responsibility, sustainability, ultra vires, securities law

JEL Classification: K22, M14

Suggested Citation

Hazen, Thomas Lee, Corporate and Securities Law Impact on Social Responsibility and Corporate Purpose (February 22, 2020). 62 B.C.L. Rev. 851 (2021), UNC Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Thomas Lee Hazen (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States
919--962-8504 (Phone)

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