Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition
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Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition

Edited by Jan M. Smits

Written by leading authorities in their respective fields, the contributions in this accessible book cover and combine not only questions regarding the methodology of comparative law, but also specific areas of law (such as administrative law and criminal law) and specific topics (such as accident compensation and consideration). In addition, the Encyclopedia contains reports on a selected set of countries’ legal systems and, as a whole, presents an overview of the current state of affairs.
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Chapter 21: Corporate responsibility*

Cynthia A. Williams


The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to ‘the firm’s considerations of, and response to, issues beyond the narrow economic, technical, and legal requirements of the firm to accomplish social [and environmental] benefits along with the traditional economic gains which the firm seeks’ (Davis, 1973: 312). It has been studied at a conceptual level in both law and management. Critical to the legal understanding of CSR is that the actions a firm takes to protect ‘people, planet and profits’ in its CSR initiatives go beyond the requirements of law (Shamir, 2004), although recent analyses by McBarnet, Voiculescu and Campbell (2007) and Lambooy (2010) have shown qualifications to this statement as mechanisms of legal liability are starting to be developed, particularly with respect to companies’ human rights obligations and actions. In management, theoretical perspectives on corporate social performance or stakeholder management have been published for over two decades (Carroll, 1999 (discussing prior two decades of work); Freeman, 1984; Donaldson and Preston, 1995; Clarkson, 1995; McWilliams and Siegel, 2001), with no discernible effect on management practice. In the last decade, however, there is a new development: some businesses have begun to show evidence of CSR in actual practice. This phenomenon is now global, so comparative analysis can cautiously begin.

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