Max Planck Society

Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law

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Online version Handwörterbuch des Europäischen Privatrechts

Corporate Social Responsibility – A Legal Assessment

The discussion surrounding the social responsibility of companies is more than just a momentary fad. In fact, the debate touches on fundamental company law questions: What purposes are served by modern corporations? What goals should they be allowed to pursue? In the view of Institute Director Prof. Dr. Holger Fleischer, whose field of research focuses on company and capital markets law, the inter-disciplinary field of CSR should not be left to economists and sociologists alone. Thus, in his current research he is examining how CSR concepts can, in the future, be anchored in the greater structure of company law.

The first steps have already been taken. At the latest with the corporate social responsibility reporting duty which has been imposed on large, capital market oriented companies, the topic has begun to impact company law, accounting law and capital market law. This duty is based on a 2014 EU directive having the primary goal of increasing transparency as regards the economic and social aspects of companies located in the EU. The reporting duty relates particularly to information affecting environmental, social and employer issues as well as matters regarding human rights and the combatting of corruption and bribery. Germany has transposed the directive into national law applicable to management reports as of 2017.

Further steps in this direction are, in the view of Holger Fleischer, certain to follow. Accordingly, he believes that legal scholars researching the topic of CSR have the task of situating the current discussion in its larger and international context and, further, interjecting critical and well-grounded commentary on future reform proposals.

The following projects related to CSR have already been undertaken by Holger Fleischer:

Charting the debate: Current article in “Die Aktiengesellschaft”“

In an article recently published in “Die Aktiengesellschaft”, Holger Fleischer offers a systematic overview of the various individual areas of discourse on CSR. Departing from the corporate and economic foundations of CSR, Holger Fleischer surveys the current national discussions and places them in historical and international context. On this basis he explores possible scenarios of future development.

Holger Fleischer, Corporate Social Responsibility – Vermessung eines Forschungsfeldes aus rechtlicher Sicht, Die Aktiengesellschaft 62 (2017), 509 - 525.

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In June 2017, Holger Fleischer convened an Institute symposium addressing the subject of corporate social responsibility. Leading legal scholars from Germany, Austria and Switzerland came together to discuss the following topics as presented by the corresponding speakers:

  • Corporate Social Responsibility as a Field of Research
    Prof. Dr. h.c. Holger Fleischer (MPI)
  • CSR: Basic Corporate Law Questions and the Aim of Company Law
    PD Dr. Daniel Markus Häusermann (University St. Gallen) and Prof. Dr. Eva Micheler (LSE London / Vienna University of Economics and Business)
  • International Rule- and Standard Setting in the Field of CSR
    Prof. Dr. Petra Buck-Heeb (Gottfried Wilhelm University, Hannover)
  • CSR in Accounting Law
    PD Dr. Sebastian Mock (University of Hamburg)
  • The International Liability of Domestic Companies for Human Rights Violations
    Prof. Dr. Andreas Bohrer (University of Zürich) and PD Dr. Patrick Warto (University of Salzburg)
  • CSR and Employee Participation
    Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Krause (Georg-August-University of Göttingen)
  • Individual Questions in CSR: Political Engagement, Sustainable Manage Compensation
    Prof. Dr. Janine Wendt (TU Darmstadt) and Prof. Dr. Karin Müller (University of Lucerne)


The conference volume from this event was published in 2018:

Holger Fleischer, Susanne Kalss, Hans-Ueli Vogt (eds.), Corporate Social Responsibility, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2018, XV + 344 pages

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