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Corporate social responsibility: what role for law? Some aspects of law and CSR

Karin Buhmann (PhD, MIL (Master of International Law), cand.jur. (LL.M) and exam art. She works as an Associate Professor at the Department of Social Sciences, Roskilde University, Denmark. She previously worked as a project manager on the Danish CSR Scorecard project, as an in‐house consultant in the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (on human rights, good governance and legal reform in third world states), at the Office of the Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman and in the Danish Immigration Service. She was admitted to the Danish Bar in 2002.)

Corporate Governance

ISSN: 1472-0701

Article publication date: 1 March 2006




The purpose of this article is to discuss the role that law plays for corporate social responsibility (CSR) in substance, action and reporting, including whether CSR functions as informal law.


The theoretical point of departure is based in legal science. Through a discussion of various contexts of CSR in which law and legal standards feature, the article questions the conception that CSR is to do “more than the law requires”. CSR is discussed with the triple bottom line as a point of departure, focussing on social (esp. labour and human rights) and environmental dimensions.


It is argued that CSR functions as informal law, and that important principles of law function as part of a general set of values that guide much action on CSR. Furthermore, it is argued that aspects of law in the abstract as well as in the statutory sense and as self‐regulation influence the substance, implementation and communication of CSR, and that the current normative regime of CSR in terms of demands on multinational corporations may constitute pre‐formal law.


Through its discussion, observations and examples of the role played in CSR by law in the abstract as well as the statutory sense, by international, supranational and national soft and hard law and documents, and by public regulation as well as corporate self‐regulation, the paper is of value to corporate managers, public regulators, NGOs and individuals with an interest in CSR, including as an aspect of corporate governance.



Buhmann, K. (2006), "Corporate social responsibility: what role for law? Some aspects of law and CSR", Corporate Governance, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 188-202.



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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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