From 'Corporate Social Responsibility' to 'Corporate Social Liability'?

23 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2022

See all articles by Karl Hofstetter

Karl Hofstetter

University of Zurich - Rechtswissenschaftliches Institut (School of Law)

Date Written: October 30, 2022


The arrival of CSR has affected a whole array of issues in the debate about Corporate Governance, incl. the remit of boards and the role of ethics in the management of companies. More recently, the debate has started to move into new territory: the declaration and implementation of what can be called “Corporate Social Liability” or “CSL”. The new CSL goes beyond classical tort and company law and may result in vicarious liability of parent companies for subsidiaries and third - party business partners. Its main focus has been on human rights and the environment.

The paper summarizes various legislative projects and court cases that have contributed to the recent rise of CSL. It distills the novel elements seen in these international developments and assesses them with a particular emphasis on their social efficiency implications. It concludes that the recent international attempts to shape new forms of CSL should not be dismissed entirely. If crafted diligently, CSL could contribute to the worthy causes of human rights and a sustainable environment. However, if rushed with idealistic fervor by either legislators or courts and without a view to social efficiency, they might produce too many counterproductive effects, incl. excessive liability, inefficient corporate structures or stymied corporate investment in third world countries.

Suggested Citation

Hofstetter, Karl, From 'Corporate Social Responsibility' to 'Corporate Social Liability'? (October 30, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Karl Hofstetter (Contact Author)

University of Zurich - Rechtswissenschaftliches Institut (School of Law) ( email )

Raemistrasse 72
Zurich, ZH 8001

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