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 9: Locating the ‘Environment’ Within Corporate Social Responsibility: Continuing Problems of Legal Definition and Representation

David M. Ong

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


David M. Ong INTRODUCTION: DOES CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY INCLUDE CORPORATE ‘ENVIRONMENTAL’ RESPONSIBILITY? Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is now a well-known term of art in the public policy, business, and civil society/activist (NGO) worlds.1 However, like the even more well-known concept of ‘sustainable development’ (Lowe, 2005; Victor, 2006), it is now in danger of becoming ‘all things to all people’. In this chapter, I would like to lay bare a specific but arguably very significant problem within the CSR concept. Simply put: Are the twin attributes of CSR, namely, its popularity and all–encompassing nature in fact detrimental from an overtly environmental perspective?2 Specifically, by in effect subsuming ‘environmental protection’ as simply another, or further, aspect of ‘social’ responsibility, encompassed by the term: ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’, I would suggest that the current emphasis on CSR tends to assume the inclusion of corporate ‘environmental’ responsibility and thereby disregard the comparative lack of legal accountability for the continuing degradation of the ‘natural’ environment by corporate activities.3 These notions of corporate environmental and social responsibility are increasingly linked and even overlap in their development within the wider debate on corporate accountability to stakeholders. Indeed, in their recent contribution to this debate, Elkington et al. describe the corporate embrace of transparency, ethical behaviour, respect for diverse stakeholders, and a commitment to add economic, social and environmental value simply as ‘corporate responsibility’, rather than corporate ‘social’ or ‘environmental’ responsibility, thereby disdaining the controversy surrounding these terms (Beloe et al., 2006: 271). However, few of the...

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