• Program 2006-07

In an Era of Corporate Social Responsibility, what is the role of the Courts?


November 13, 2006


Credit Suisse Auditorium

Historically, changes as momentous as the mainstreaming of environmentalism or sustainability required extensive courtroom battles between activists and the status quo, often all the way to the supreme court (cf. Abolition of slavery, equal rights, civil rights). Social unrest related to corporate dominance began in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States with attacks on corporations like the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation for assisting in the attach of the Allende government in Chile and Dow Chemical for producing agent orange. As Jane Anne Morris wrote in Corporate Social Responsibility: Kick the Habit, in the 1970s corporate management began to "answer to the people" out of fear of prosecution or reputational destruction. This social unrest resulted in the first "surge" in corporatesocial responsibility that many would argue was voluntary, but cheap and temporary. How has the definition of a corporation and shareholder/office protection impacted sustainability and corporate cultures changes towards sustainability? The Federal Corporate Sentencing Guidelines were developed by the Federal Sentencing Commission to ensure that good behavior was rewarded and that certain operations would allow officers to prevent breaches of certain legislations that may put the corporation at risk (Young and Young 2003). The guidelines even go so far as to make recommendations for appropriate corporate behavior. If legislation continues to address corporate behavior and the mitigation of corporate risk, what role will the courts play? And as corporations evolve and embrace CSR how will legislation evolve? Will GHG emissions regulation follow the pattern of the Voting Rights Act, for example?


Chris McKenzie, B&D Law, cmckenzie(at)bdlaw.com


Mitchell Bernard, Litigation Director, NRDC; Chris McKenzie, Director, Beveridge & Diamond PC; Chris Walker, Managing Director of Greenhouse Gas Risk Solutions, Swiss Re.