The purpose of this paper is to examine in detail the positive and negative aspects of selected soft law initiatives and the relevance of hard laws in the pursuit of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Soft law initiatives are categorized into company codes, industry‐initiated codes, and general codes in order to determine more accurately the effectiveness of the codes in enforcing CSR standards. A number of factors relevant in determining the effectiveness of such codes are identified and applied. Partnerships between soft law initiatives and hard laws are illustrated.
Soft law initiatives are necessary tools in CSR. However, transparency, implementation, monitoring and compliance mechanisms are core areas in which the effectiveness of the initiatives needs improvement. Categorizing the initiatives helps to identify specific areas needed for improving effectiveness.
The initiatives examined are limited to those relevant for human rights, the environment and anti‐corruption. The paper selects a number of relevant initiatives and does not attempt to examine all initiatives in these sectors. The reference to hard laws focuses on anti‐bribery laws.
The paper provides useful information on improving the effectiveness of soft law initiatives, which are the current modes for enforcement of CSR; the relevance of hard laws in CSR; and the role of NGOs in ensuring CSR.
The paper identifies the evolution of universal standards in CSR and calls for a universal approach which aims to address the need for adequate and effective enforcement.
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