From Corporate Social Responsibility to the Democratic Regulation of Transnational Corporations

By David Humphreys.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic Free Download

This publication examines the role of transnational corporations in governance and critically evaluates the dominant self-regulatory approach of corporate social responsibility (CSR). By placing the onus for change on the corporation, CSR represents an agent-led approach to a systemic problem, and as such it is flawed. After distinguishing between the ideas of CSR and corporate accountability, the latter of which emphasises the answerability of the corporation to public authorities and citizens, the publication then offers an original model for the democratic regulation of the corporation. The model proposes, first, the negotiation of a new corpus of international law to be agreed by states but ratified by those corporations that wish to trade or invest internationally and, second, the reinvigoration of the public charter as an active instrument of public control. The model aims to provide a nested framework within which corporations can trade and compete, while restoring to local communities final decision making authority on the conditions under which corporations may, or may not, operate. Some possible objections to the model are anticipated and addressed.

Keywords: Accountability, Charter, Limited Liability, Neoliberalism, Rationality, Responsibility

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.207-218. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.174MB).

Dr. David Humphreys

Senior Lecturer in Environmental Policy, Geography Discipline, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes, Bucks, UK

David Humphreys specialises in global environmental governance with a particular interest in forests. His book Logjam: Deforestation and the Crisis of Global Governance won the International Studies Association's 2008 Harold and Margaret Sprout Awards for the best book on international environmental problems. He is interested in how neoliberalism establishes the parameters of international environmental policy and is currently researching the balance between public and private spheres in environmental governance and how business can be rendered publicly accountable. For the last three years his teaching work at the Open University, United Kingdom has focused on the production of a third level course, entitled Earth in Crisis, on environmental policy in an international context.

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