Research Handbook on Corporate Legal Responsibility
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Research Handbook on Corporate Legal Responsibility

Edited by Stephen Tully

The ever-important topic of corporate legal responsibility is deconstructed into many multifaceted components in this fascinating Handbook, which systematically examines each in turn and describes the contemporary legal position.
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Chapter 21: Corporate Accountability: An NGO Perspective

Craig Bennett and Helen Burley


Craig Bennett and Helen Burley Introduction Environmental organisations like Friends of the Earth have campaigned against the socially and environmentally destructive practices of companies for as long as they have been in existence. Over the years, groups have won campaigns against companies on a range of issues but how much has really changed in the corporate world? We argue that the corporate sector’s response to campaigns by civil society (ethical consumerism and corporate social responsibility: CSR) fails to address the unprecedented social and environmental challenges faced by humanity in the twenty-first century. In particular, it fails to challenge the growth of unaccountable corporate power. As a result, we now see the development of a ‘corporate accountability movement’. Corporate accountability can be defined as the ability of those affected by a corporation to control that corporation’s operations. It is a concept that demands fundamental changes to the legal framework in which companies operate. These include social and environmental duties being placed on directors to counterbalance their existing duties on financial matters and legal rights for local communities to seek compensation when they have suffered as a result of directors failing to uphold those duties. In this chapter, we briefly review how the concept of corporate accountability has come about and how it is fundamentally different to voluntary CSR. We outline some of the mechanisms that could help deliver corporate accountability at an international and EU level, but we also explore in some depth how the principles and components of these mechanisms...

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