Corporations, Globalisation and the Law series
Edited by Nina Boeger, Rachel Murray and Charlotte Villiers
Chapter 5: Corporate Law, Corporate Power and Corporate Social Responsibility
Charlotte Villiers INTRODUCTION Can corporate social responsibility (CSR) be an effective solution to the problems relating to human rights or climate change in which corporations are involved? Political leaders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and consumer campaigners alike, point to the activities of multinational corporations as a key influence on the world’s social and environmental welfare. Corporate social responsibility is widely viewed as the avenue along which their activities must be steered. Companies have considerable power. Directly their activities have an impact on society and on the environment and their activities have capacity to do damage or create benefits socially and environmentally. The economic power of corporations, especially transnational and multinational corporations, also brings to them political power enabling them to influence social and environmental policy and regulation and such power extends to influencing the lives of individuals. These features of corporate power are more pronounced where they operate in developing nations whose governments have comparatively little economic power. Advocates of CSR assert that corporations are to be made accountable for their activities and for how they exercise their power and that CSR should lead to corporations having a positive effect on society and the environment. Despite increased attention on CSR and claims that CSR has become an established feature of corporate policy during the last couple of decades, progress in terms of the effectiveness of such CSR has not been impressive. The divide between rich and poor across the globe continues to expand, the environment is increasingly suffering damage from industrial...
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