Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Corporate social responsibility: a legal analysis

May 2009

Michael Kerr, Richard Janda, Chip Pitts. Hardback. 650 pages. LexisNexis. Can$150

Written by a group of North Americans but with a perspective that goes further afield than their continent, this substantial volume’s stated aim is to ‘bury the misconception that CSR is merely voluntary or optional’. It does so by unearthing soft and hard law around the world that pertains to the social and environmental impacts of business.

While, given the authors’ provenance, there is a natural bias towards Canadian/US legislation, there’s plenty here on the legal situation in  Europe and beyond. And although significant coverage is given to well-known laws such as the Alien Tort and Sarbanes-Oxley Acts, there are some unexpected reference points. Not least of these is the International Law Association’s New Delhi Declaration of 2002, which sets out seven principles related to responsible business behaviour and is given prominence throughout.

The book’s central tenet is that responsible conduct begins with legal compliance, even if  it doesn’t end there. The case is convincingly and clearly made without resort to legalese or unnecessary detail, and there are useful background chapters on the meaning of CSR, its history and the drivers behind it. In fact, it would be easier to criticize the authors for spending too much time on non-legal matters than it would be to chastise them for over-indulging in case law, regulations and statutes. But that would be churlish, for this book is clearly aimed at generalists just as much as lawyerly types. It will be valuable to both.

Peter Mason

Peter Mason | Global | CSR


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