Corporate Social Responsibility and Compliance: Adopting a Principles-Based Approach to Performance

This is the seventh in a series of posts reflecting excerpts from a chapter that I authored on corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) for the Corporate Legal Compliance Handbook.

CSR places concrete performance goals in an aspirational context: it can infuse corporate compliance requirements with a level of intrinsic motivation whereby company employees share a collective sense that the company is trying to improve its performance and act in a responsible manner. A compliance program should ideally support a company’s commitment to responsible business behavior: compliance requirements should not be the driver of operational change, but rather should be consistent with the company’s over-arching sense of what should be done.

Ideally, a company’s CSR commitments will be aligned with corporate values. Effectively leveraging the linkages between corporate values, CSR commitments, and compliance processes can promote an overall compliance culture that is not purely “rules” focused but rather based on a collective sense that every employee is expected to fulfill their responsibilities in a principled manner. An article in Corporate Compliance Insights observed, “only after we inspire our organizations, employees, and supply chain to reason through a lens of integrity, self-govern their personal actions, and influence the actions of their peers will we ever be able to achieve compliance with the law and maintain an ethical culture.”

CSR can promote an approach to compliance that is built on values and supported by robust management systems: such an approach provides a company with the capacity to adjust, as necessary, to future regulatory and legislative changes that may be reflective of shifting stakeholder expectations.

Excerpt reproduced with the permission of Wolters Kluwer from Theodore Banks & Frederick Banks (eds.), “Corporate Social Responsibility,” Corporate Legal Compliance Handbook, Chapter 15 (2016).  A copy of the full handbook can be purchased here.


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