LAW4643 - Corporate social responsibility - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Not offered in 2017


This Unit will introduce students to the idea, and foundation, of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a component of corporate governance. Students will then be exposed to various facets of the three distinct but interrelated challenges to CSR. First, why should corporations have social responsibilities towards their stakeholders? Second, what is the scope, nature and extent of these responsibilities? Third, how could corporations be made accountable for violating their social responsibilities in areas such as human rights, labour rights and the environment?

Issues such as the following will be explored:

  • meaning and historical evolution of the notion of CSR - comparing CSR with concepts such as corporate accountability, corporate citizenship, triple bottom line, corporate philanthropy, and sustainable business;
  • CSR and corporate governance - CSR's intrusion into company law;
  • changing interface of states, corporations, law, and human rights against the backdrop of globalisation - privatisation of states and human rights;
  • drivers of CSR, e.g., a risk management tool, ethical investing and consumerism, business case for CSR;
  • ethical, social, legal and economic justifications for CSR;
  • scope, nature and extent of social responsibilities - complicity of corporations with states in human rights abuses, responsibilities of corporations operating in conflict zones or repressive regimes, handling CSR issues within supply chains and in global operations;
  • review of existing CSR initiatives: private v. public, voluntary v. obligatory, national v. international - the "protect, respect and remedy" framework proposed by Professor John Ruggie, UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Business and Human Rights; and
  • CSR litigation (e.g., under common law and the US Alien Tort Claims Act) and the challenges thereof - the doctrine of forum non conveniens, and the allocation of liability within a corporate group.


On completion of this Unit, students should be able to:

  • analytically describe the concept of CSR and its historical evolution as well as relationship to corporate governance;
  • critically evaluate the changing role of corporations in a globalised free market-oriented society and the justifications for CSR;
  • apply CSR regulations, principles, practices, case studies and initiatives to solve ethical dilemmas that corporations face when operating in different countries;
  • ascertain the nature and extent of social responsibilities - both ethical and legal - of corporations operating globally under diverse conditions;
  • compare and contrast the relative efficacy of different CSR initiatives;
  • develop effective writing and oral communication skills in relation to CSR issues; and
  • assess the importance of acting ethically and with due regard to one's social responsibilities.


Class presentation: 10% + research assignment (drafting a legal advice or formulating a CSR policy for a corporation): 30% + take-home examination: 60%.

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. The unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)