City University of Hong Kong Information on a Course offered by School of Law with effect from Semester A in 2013 / 2014
Part I Course Title:
Corporate Social Responsibility
No. of Credit Units:
3 (Three Hours per Week)
Prerequisites: (Course Code and Title)
Precursors: (Course Code and Title)
(Course Code and Title)
(Course Code and Title)
Part II 1.
Course Aims: This course aims to:
allow students to explore the idea, and foundation, of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a component of corporate governance; develop students’ critical awareness of various regulatory initiatives that seeks to promote corporate citizenship; enable students to discover how CSR policies could be integrated into day-to-day business decisions; prepare students, with the help of case studies, to handle (un)foreseen ethical dilemmas that arise during business operations in innovative ways; and nurture effective writing and oral communication skills in relation to CSR issues.
Course Intended Learning Outcomes (CILOs) Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:
No . 1.
Weighting (if applicable)
Number(s) of PILOs Contributed to
Explore and explain analytically: the concept of CSR and its relation to corporate governance; the historical development of the idea of CSR and its intrusion into corporate laws; and the justifications for CSR. Apply CSR regulations, principles, practices and initiatives to: solve innovatively ethical dilemmas that corporations face when operating in different countries; integrate CSR policies into day-to-day business decisions; and draft and communicate, both orally and in writing, an advice in relation to CSR issues in a clear and coherent manner. Critically evaluate and discover: the changing role and place of corporations in society; the relevance of CSR in an era of free market economy and globalisation; and the relative efficacy of different CSR initiatives. Assess the importance of acting ethically and develop a sense of curiosity to distill one’s social responsibilities.
Teaching and learning Activities (TLAs) (designed to facilitate students’ achievement of the CILOs)
ILO No CILO 1
Hours/week (if applicable)
Seminars Students will explore the concept of CSR and the main justifications that underpin it; Students will develop – by asking or responding to questions and participating in discussions – analytical and critical capabilities; and Students will also receive guidance on further reading and research to satisfy their curiosity to find solution to diverse CSR challenges.
Case studies Students will learn the justifications for CSR with the help of case studies introduced during seminars.
Pre/post-seminar reading Students will satisfy their curiosities and refine further their understanding of the concepts by doing self-reading and research before and after seminars. CILO 2
Group exercises during seminars Students will apply, during group exercises, CSR principles and practices to hypothetical business situations and develop innovative solutions for businesses.
Case studies Students will learn, with the help of case studies, how to overcome ethical dilemmas that corporations face when operating in diverse settings.
Tutorials Students will present their advice, orally and/or in writing, in relation to how a given corporation can integrate CSR policies into its business operations and decisions. CILO 3
Group exercises and tutorials Students will discover and evaluate critically the evolution of CSR in proportion to the growing influence of corporations under current economic climate; and Students will also get an opportunity to explore and assess the relative strengths and limitations of divergent CSR initiatives while considering past cases and case studies.
Reflective reading and research Students will develop a critical and exploratory aptitude to reflect on the CSR discourse during reading and research.
Case studies By analysing past business case studies, students will assess the need and importance of acting ethically and satisfy their curiosity to identify one’s social responsibilities.
Assessment Tasks/Activities (designed to assess how well the students achieve the CILOs)
ILO No CILO 1
Type of assessment tasks/activities
End-of-course examination (50% of the total marks) will test students’ ability to describe and explain analytically their acquired understanding as to the concept and foundations of CSR.
End-of-course examination (50% of the total marks) will test students’ ability to apply innovatively CSR principles, practices and initiatives to given hypothetical business situations.
Tutorials and group exercises (20% of the total marks) will assess students’ ability (i) to advise corporations on how to integrate creatively CSR policies into their day-to-day business decisions; and (ii) to analyse and resolve ethical dilemmas faced by corporations and orally communicate solutions of such dilemmas.
Assignment – drafting a CSR policy for a corporation or writing a weekly journal on CSR issues (30% of the total marks) will test students’ ability (i) to analyse and research an ethical/legal problem and advise in writing a given corporation in relation to such a problem, or (ii) to discover CSR issues as reported in the media and offer personal reflections.
Weighting (if applicable)
End-of-course examination (50% of the total marks) will test students’ ability to evaluate critically the impetus behind the CSR discourse and its implications for corporations and corporate law.
Assignment – drafting a CSR policy for a corporation or writing a weekly journal on CSR issues (30% of the total marks) will test students’ ability to assess critically the relevance of developing an effective CSR strategy for a corporation, or explore diverse CSR issues that companies face while doing business.
Tutorials and group exercises (20% of the total marks) will evaluate students’ ability to assess – based on their futuristic analysis of past case studies – the need and importance of acting ethically for individuals, companies and businesswomen.
Grading of Student Achievement: Refer to Grading of Courses in the Academic Regulations.
Students’ achievements will be graded on the basis of their performance in assessment tasks/activities. The assessment for this course will have the following three components:
Class participation: 20% (grasping prescribed reading materials beforehand, discovering CSR issues as reported in the media, engaging in discussions during seminars and tutorials and participating in in-class exercises) Coursework: 30% (drafting a CSR policy for a corporation in response to a real or hypothetical CSR issue, OR writing a journal on CSR issues for three weeks) Examination: 50% (a two-hour open book examination to test students’ ability to understand, analyse and evaluate CSR law-principles-initiatives and apply them in hypothetical business situations) To pass this course, students must obtain an aggregate mark of 40% and a minimum of 30% in each of the above assessment tasks/activities. Grading will be done as per the Law School’s adopted standards: A+ (85 or above), A (80-84), A- (75-79), … F (below 40).
Part III Keyword Syllabus: Meaning and historical evolution of the notion of corporate social responsibility (CSR); Comparing CSR with concepts such as responsible corporate citizenship, triple bottom line and sustainable business; CSR and corporate governance; CSR and company law; Basis of CSR, e.g., a risk management tool; Business case for CSR and the Prisoner’s Dilemma; Ethical consumerism and green investing; Review of existing CSR initiatives – private v. public, voluntary v. obligatory, national v. international; UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises; UN Global Compact; ILO Tripartite Declaration; Integrating CSR into business decisions: supply chains, dealing with local difference, and operations in conflict regimes or repressive regimes; CSR litigation – e.g., the US Alien Tort Claims Act; Challenges in the CSR litigation – the doctrine of forum non conveniens, and the allocation of liability within a corporate group. Recommended Readings: Students are strongly encouraged to buy the recommended textbook below. In view of the evolving and inter-disciplinary nature of this course, students would need to refer to other resources listed below and the materials circulated during seminars or uploaded on the Blackboard.
Textbook Surya Deva, Regulating Corporate Human Rights Violations: Humanizing Business, paperback edition (London: Routledge, 2013). Other Useful Resources Michael K Addo (ed.) Human Rights Standards and the Responsibility of Transnational Corporations (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1999). Reuven S Avi-Yonah, ‘The Cyclical Transformations of the Corporate Form: A Historical Perspective on Corporate Social Responsibility’ (2005) 30 Delaware Journal of Corporate Law 767. Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (New York: Free Press, 2004). Adolph A Berle, Jr., ‘Corporate Powers as Powers in Trust’ (1931) 44 Harvard Law Review 1049. Adolph A Berle, Jr., ‘For Whom Corporate Managers are Trustees: A Note’ (1932) 45 Harvard Law Review 1365 Phillip Blumberg, ‘Assessing Human Rights against Multinational Corporations under the United States Law: Conceptual and Procedural framework’ (2002) 50 American Journal of Comparative Law 493 (Suppl.).
John R Boatright, Ethics and the Conduct of Business, 5th edn. (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007). Andrew Clapham, Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Actors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). Andrew Clapham & Scott Jerbi, ‘Categories of Corporate Complicity in Human Rights Abuses’ (2001) 24 Hastings International & Comparative Law Review 339. Surya Deva, ‘Sustainable Development: What Role for the Company Law?’ (2011) 8 International & Comparative Corporate Law Journal 76. Janet Dine, Companies, International Trade and Human Rights (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). Merrick E Dodd, Jr., ‘For Whom Are Corporate Managers Trustees?’ (1932) 45 Harvard Law Review 1145. Edward Freeman, Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach (Boston: Pitman, 1984). Milton Friedman, ‘The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits’, New York Times Magazine (13 September 1970), 33. Nicola Jägers, Corporate Human Rights Obligations: In Search of Accountability (New York: Intersentia, 2002). Sarah Joseph, Corporations and Transnational Human Rights Litigation (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2004). Michael Kerr, Richard Janda & Chip Pitts, Corporate Social Responsibility: A Legal Analysis (Markham: LexisNexis, 2009). Michael E Porter & Mark R Kramer, ‘The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility’ (2006) 84:12 Harvard Business Review 78. Jennifer A Zerk, Multinational and Corporate Social Responsibility: Limitations and Opportunities in International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). Background Readings Rogene A Buchholz, Rethinking Capitalism: Community and Responsibility in Business (New York: Routledge, 2009). Thomas Donaldson, The Ethics of International Business (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989). Edward Freeman et al, Stakeholder Theory: The State of the Art (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Access to Justice: Human Rights Abuses Involving Corporations – People’s Republic of China (Geneva: ICJ, 2010). John Ruggie, Just Business: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights (New York: WW Norton & Co., 2013). Theodore Levitt, ‘The Dangers of Social Responsibility’ (1958) 36:5 Harvard Business Review 41. Radu Mares (ed.), Business and Human Rights: A Compilation of Documents (Leiden: Nijhoff, 2004). Radu Mares (ed.), The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Foundation and Implementation (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, 2012). Peter Muchlinski, Multinational Enterprises and the Law, 2nd edn. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). Anne T Lawrence & James Weber, Business and Society: Stakeholders, Ethics, Public Policy, 12th edn. (Boston: McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2008). Milton Sneoyenbos, Robert Almeder & James Humber (eds.), Business Ethics, revised edn. (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1992). Elaine Sternberg, Just Business: Business Ethics in Action, 2nd edn. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). Christopher D Stone, Where the Law Ends: The Social Control of Corporate Behaviour (New York: Harper & Row, 1975). Harwell Wells, ‘The Cycles of Corporate Social Responsibility: An Historical Retrospective for the Twenty-first Century’ (2002) 51 Kansas Law Review 77. Florian Wettstein, Multinational Corporations and Global Justice: Human Rights Obligations of a Quasi-governmental Institution (Stanford: Stanford Business Books, 2009). Muhammad Yunus, Creating a World without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism (New York: Public Affairs, 2007). Simon Zadek, The Civil Corporation (London: Earthscan, 2007). Select CSR Initiatives and Instruments Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (2011). ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (2000).
ISO 26000: Guidance on Social Responsibility (2010). OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (2000; updated 2011). UN Global Compact (2000). UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights (2003). Social Accountability 8000. G3.1 Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Guidelines (2011). Case Studies Toyota: Covering up safety problems in cars Yahoo! and Google: Right to privacy; internet censorship in China Melamine Milk Scandal: Sale and supply of safe milk products; Ethical dilemma BP oil spill: Management’s failures; enhancing risk to save time and money Shell: Environmental degradation in Nigeria James Hardie: Corporate means to pre-empt asbestos liability Union Carbide: Liability for Bhopal gas disaster Nike: Labour rights in Asia; false/misleading advertising Unocal: Complicity in human rights abuses in Myanmar The Body Shop: Sustainable business; the business case for CSR Nestlé: Infant formula Dow Chemical: Toxic trespass Pepsi and Coca Cola: Access to ground water; pesticides in soft drinks Pharmaceutical companies: Patent rights and access to HIV drugs Halliburton: Profiteering from the Iraq war Tobacco industry: Right to life and health; right to information
Online Resources Business and Human Rights Resource Centre website provides most comprehensive CSR updates: http://www.business-humanrights.org/Home CSR Asia: http://www.csr-asia.com/ Ethical Corporation: http://www.ethicalcorp.com/ Documentaries and Films The Corporation (2005). Blood Diamond (2006). Who Killed the Electric Car (2006). An Inconvenient Truth (2006). Supersize Me (2004). The Constant Gardner (2005). Trade Secrets (2001). Bhopal Express (1999).