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I went to law school recently - to teach but, as often happens in life, I ended up learning. I was invited to talk about trends and practices in CSR governance to Osgoode Hall Law School's professional development program for lawyers. What I learned is how CSR has taken root in the legal profession through the evolution of "soft law."
Soft law is the term given to quasi-legal instruments that are non-binding, including codes of conduct and voluntary standards such as the UN Global Compact or the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The panel moderator was Ed Waitzer, former chair of the Ontario Securities Commission and a partner at Stikeman Elliott (recently acclaimed one of the country's top 30 green employers) in Toronto. He explained that these soft law instruments, or rules of conduct, "have become the basis on which firms can be held legally accountable, thereby morphing into hard law."
This is good news for CSR/sustainability practitioners who understand the importance of holding firms accountable to credible standards – and of using those standards to fuel the adoption of CSR/sustainability practices.
It is gratifying to see how the CSR/sustainability business case has emerged over the past few decades. CSR and sustainability governance has moved from mid-management, to the C-suite and more recently to the board of directors. I refer to this as a trend to the CSR fiduciary.
The CSR Guidelines I took to Osgoode Hall are a collaborative project with Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR). They were funded by Industry Canada and are posted on their website. In addition to my trip to Osgoode Hall, I presented the guidelines recently in a webinar along with CBSR for the Directors College, Canada's first university-accredited corporate director development program. I also applied the Guidelines to CSR board governance reviews and training for a number of firms. All of this is evidence of the emergent trend but there is still work to do. I often find the following typical governance gaps:
As CSR becomes more and more mainstream, boards will tackle these questions – and it’s our job to make sure they get asked.
Since my last newsletter I’ve added the following posts to my blog. I welcome your thoughts on:
All the best to you and yours,
|Strandberg Consulting - Solutions for a Sustainable World
Coro Strandberg - Principal
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