The Governance of Corporate Responsibility

Produced as part of the Climate change governance for a new global deal CCCEP research programme theme

Companies are hugely important actors in modern society and clearly have a critical role to play if we are to make the transition to a more sustainable economy. To some extent, it is hoped that their contribution to such a transition will be motivated by their commitments on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Such commitments are normally made voluntarily and are delivered through various forms of self-regulation or corporate governance. But companies are also motivated by market opportunities and driven by different stakeholder pressures and policy demands. The climate for CSR therefore encapsulates many dimensions of broader debates on governance in that it emphasises the importance of public, private and civic action in shaping the conditions for the governance of business ‘from the outside’ and the role that selfregulation can play in enabling the governance of business ‘from the inside’.

This paper provides an overview of the literatures on CSR and on the governance of business, and it explores the links between the two frequently separate debates. It concludes that while there is a general recognition in the literature of the factors that encourage companies to adopt a proactive approach to CSR, the specific factors and their relative importance are relatively poorly understood. Whilst we acknowledge that the theoretical literature on CSR and the governance of business is relatively underdeveloped, we also see that there is a growing body of empirical evidence that provides important insights, in particular in terms of the factors that make specific governance interventions more or less effective. Based on recent research into the climate change performance of the supermarket/retail sector, we offer some conclusions on the extent to which different governance interventions or conditions are likely to drive continuing improvements in the CSR-related activities and/or performance of the corporate sector.