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lawyers bid for CSR role

November 2003

The European legal profession is asking corporate lawyers to play a greater part in responsible business practice.

The Council of the Bars and Law Societies of the European Union, representing more than 500,000 European lawyers, says that although corporate social responsibility is not generally regarded as the province of lawyers, its practice often raises legal concerns. ‘CSR issues should become an everyday matter for corporate lawyers,’ the Council says.

In newly-launched guidelines, the Brussels-based council suggests that all lawyers advising companies should be involved in drawing up general policies, developing systems for managing supply chains and even implementing in-house training.

They could also:

integrate CSR within existing risk management and compliance programmes
create screening systems for investments
certify that reports meet international standards
oversee the company’s CSR work
assess the legal implications of reporting and CSR-related advertising.

The guidelines emphasize that ‘even voluntary approaches have a legal context, as they can involve misrepresentation, false advertising, negligence and codes of conduct on care standards demanded by legislation.’

The guidance concludes that as more and more businesses take greater account of CSR, ‘it is the lawyers’ role to assist their clients in positioning their business successfully in this new legal landscape.’

The guidelines were compiled by members from Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden.

Helge Kolrud, the council’s president, said his organization ‘intends to play a leading role in the promotion of CSR by ensuring that lawyers understand its importance when advising clients’, and added that the guidelines were a ‘starting point’.

Lawyers are not the only professionals to have bid for a greater role in CSR. The Institute of Internal Auditors – UK and Ireland recently said that internal auditors have a ‘vital and important role’ to play now that CSR has become an accepted part of business (EP5, issue 4).




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