Corporate Social Accountability


The COVID-19 crisis has revived and is fast constructing a new landscape for the debate on corporate objectives. The pandemic has exposed significant vulnerabilities in company operations and their global supply chains, and the path to overcoming the crisis very much depends on a renewed environmental, economic, and social strategy. It is also dependent on a richer notion of corporate social responsibility (CSR) that is not only effectively enforced but also offers managerial guidance for more long-term value and resilience, so that corporations can discharge their shared responsibilities, together with governments and citizens, to change societal conditions and mitigate social risks. This article aims to contribute to this discussion by addressing the problems that arise from implementing CSR in the corporate law domain and assessing how the term CSR may be refined and elevated through the lens of board accountability. The concept of Corporate Social Accountability (CSA) will be introduced as a much more refined formulation of CSR. CSA will be evaluated with the aim of sharpening its regulatory latitude based on and beyond disclosure. In particular, CSR and board accountability will be linked and investigated as two mutually enhancing terms, so as to enable CSR to be more systematically and effectively applied in corporate law. By providing a much-needed new notion and identifying corresponding pragmatic routes for company law and CSR enforcement, we propose that the introduction of CSA will reduce current contestability by sorting, comparing, and advancing this complex field of inquiry. In conclusion, we should see the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity for us to reassess the corporate objective debate and to initiate a shift towards more genuine and authentic CSR supported by government intervention through corporate law, which is essential to filling in the gaps left by private institutions. Companies may demonstrate how resilient and prepared they are to manage risks and adapt to the “new normal.” With higher social expectations from the public and stakeholders in the wake of the pandemic, the introduction of CSA, as a comprehensive framework to study CSR in corporate law, seems pertinent, imperative, and indispensable.


Stanford University Stanford, California
  • Jingchen Zhao & Shuangge Wen, Corporate Social Accountability, 58 Stan. J. Int'l L. 63–111 (2022).
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