Corporate Social Responsibility

Course content

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not a soft-law or a marketing concept anymore. CSR touches on a variety of legal issues that any lawyer in 21st century should be aware of. CSR translates social values, such as respect for human rights, employees' dignity, environmental protection or business
integrity into law through diverse legal tools. Decades ago these values remained theoretical and often voluntary, yet this is not the case anymore. Over the past decade, the international community and in some cases also the national legislators have made significant advances in examining and clarifying the links between corporations and CSR. International organizations and governments have laid down regulatory frameworks, guidelines, monitoring and reporting procedures that corporations are required to follow. Furthermore, corporations themselves have adopted codes of conduct and internal procedures in order to adhere to the above stated standards and rules. These tools combined with evolving jurisprudence effectively render CSR in many cases an enforceable law.

The course is divided into two parts. The first part provides students with the historical, economical and theoretical background of the emergence of responsibility and accountability pertaining to national and international businesses. The first part represents an introduction to the relevant terms and concepts, while understanding diverse narratives that have surrounded the development of the CSR as a legal
subject. The second part of the course focuses on international and national legal frameworks and existing legal tools such as reporting duties, tort law liability and contract law requirements applying and enforcing the protection of human rights, labor rights, the environment and anti-corruption
regulation. Also public procurement law and WTO law topics are covered. The students will analyze diverse challenges for businesses in regard to carrying out business activities with governments and other business partners in other jurisdictions, while being aware of different cultural and legal challenges. With a focus on practical examples, students will analyze the spectrum and the extent to which businesses today do and possibly should play a role in the protection of human rights, the environment and labor rights and additional societal values that develop as the society does.

It is advisable for the students to be aware (have basic knowledge) of the company law, corporate governance and public international law.

Main topics covered are the following:

  • CSR legal frameworks, international, European, national
  • CSR and its relevance for business
  • UN Global Compact, UN Sustainability Goals, OECD Guidelines, ISO 26000
  • CSR and government, NGO's position and influence
  • Obligations for corporations stemming from the legal framework on human rights, the environment, labor rights and anti-corruption
  • CSR and tort law liability
  • CSR and contract law
  • CSR and public procurement law
  • CSR and the law of WTO
  • Strategies of compliance development
  • Lawyers active role in broad due diligence
Learning outcome

In regard to the knowledge, upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to:
- describe the concepts, frameworks and consumer demands related to CSR; read and apply the law on CSR related business issues;
- describe possible consequences of breach of CSR;

In regard to the skills, upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to
- identify possible CSR problems in a (simple) case
- identify possible legal implications of CSR practices and guidelines
- use interpersonal communication skills (students will be able to express and supplement their own analysis and conclusions in reference to CSR within the common legal and business language);
- use teamwork & problem-solving skills (students will be required to form groups, assess legal and business decisions, and conceptualize, formulate models and solve the problem as in every-day life);
- use critical thinking (students will be encouraged to question the applicability of national and international law, conventional prescriptions, as well as the impact of untested information);

In regard to the competences, upon successful completion of the course, students should be in a position to:
- advise any national or international corporation on their obligations and possible liabilities in regard to the CSR;
- recognize those aspects of CSR that are the most relevant to a corporation with a view to designing and implementing compliance systems.

Case studies
Case analyses combined with students presentations
Group work - students analyzing difference compliance policies and their potential consequences
Guest lectures from specialists on corruption, business compliance, public procurement and climate change
Simulations - instructional scenarios where students are put in "real-life" situations

Selected passages from “The Oxford Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility” eds. Andrew Crane et al., 2009, Oxford University Press and a students’ compendium designed by the course lecturers.

Approximately 600 pages

Students further apply and develop skills as:
- legal research,
- critical reading and comprehension,
- synthesis of facts and law,
- legal reasoning,
- written communication,
- oral communication and advocacy

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
Oral exam based on synopsis, 20 minutes
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 356,5
  • Seminar
  • 56
  • English
  • 412,5