Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility

Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporations, Globalisation and the Law series

Edited by Nina Boeger, Rachel Murray and Charlotte Villiers

This book examines the concepts of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the context of globalisation and its many challenges, focusing on different legal perspectives that arise.

Chapter 8: Reflexive Governance, Meta-Regulation and Corporate Social Responsibility: The ‘Heineken Effect’

Colin Scott

Subjects: law - academic, company and insolvency law, corporate law and governance


Colin Scott INTRODUCTION The governance of corporations has become a central theme in the discussion of regulation and governance generally because of the recognition of the power of corporations in national and global governance regimes (Shamir, 2005: 92).The invention of ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) as an alternative ethos and set of processes to the traditions associated with the joint stock company presents significant challenges. For some, CSR risks being little more than an invention of the PR people to enhance corporate reputation without affecting the substance of corporate behaviour (Christian Aid, n.d.; Frankental, 2001). For others, CSR is, by definition, something that requires firms to demonstrate that they are going ‘beyond’ what is required by law in terms of the pursuit of positive environmental and social goals (Shamir, 2005: 101). For example, European Community policy on CSR emphasizes the voluntary nature of corporate action (European Commission, 2006). Similarly the UN Global Compact encourages firms to sign up to a set of ten universal principles relating to human rights, labour standards, the environment and anti-corruption (United Nations Global Compact Office, 2005). A third position, associated with some NGOs, is that, in order for CSR to be effective, it must be supported by mandatory legal requirements on firms (Oxfam, 2005: 17). Claimed shortcomings in the effectiveness of the Global Compact are linked to its voluntary character. Supporters of the Compact might tend to overstate the potential of such networked governance mechanisms, while critics may seriously ‘underestimate its potential’ (Ruggie, 2002: 28)...

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