I have been chronicling these efforts over the last two years (version 1.0: Corporate Social Responsibility Law--A Tentative Syllabus; Version 2.0: Teaching Corporate Social Responsibility Law: A Syllabus 2.0). My core object was to try to capture both the existing practice and emerging conceptions of the corporate social responsibilities of enterprises both have rapidly shifted from a focus on charity, one focused on human rights and sustainability. At the same time I have sought to capture the shift from a centering of these issues on the domestic legal orders of states, to international public law and market based societal regulation. Lastly, I have begun to try to embed emerging sensibilities that increasingly see in data driven analytics and consequential algorithms, a new and more potent regulatory tool for managing the societal responsibilities of enterprises across borders.
CSR Version 1.0 was a good effort, but proved to be more challenging than expected for students. The reason was simple: it was an academic's syllabus. That was a problem especially since the object of the course ought to have been less to impress my colleagues than to effectively impart knowledge to students. A few lessons from that experience: Translating theory to immediate and concrete realities proved to be more interesting to students than a deeper but more abstract engagement with the critical issues and challenges of the topic. Second, working through a live example provided much more student ownership of the materials than the traditional approaches. Third, comparison across business sectors and states proved far more enriching than alternatives. Comparisons among enterprises, among institutions, and among states, proved quite useful in drawing insights that students found profitable.
So, with these insights I produced my CSR Syllabus 2.0, which drew on the lessons I hoped I learned. It was better, but still not as useful as it could be. The exercises were not as connected as they might have been. The focus on sustainability and data driven governance was given too little attention. Also necessary was more time devoted to actually understand the interrelationships between charity, human rights, sustainability and enterprise engagement with these as an interrelated set of business objectives (or costs of production or risk/compliance centers). My sense was that the mechanics of the course were now more compatible with the way students might better approach the course. But there was also a sense that the materials might be more immediate. I found that it was as useful to work through the materials (theory and application) through an analysis of events occurring in real time, than to isolate those and work through them in a more historical context. CSR, in effect, needed to operate in the present tense.
Now I have produced Version 3.0 in which I sought to incorporate some of the insights learned from teaching Versions 1.0 and 2.0. Rather than developing a more complete taxonomy through which the class would dutifully journey, the syllabus is now constructed so that multiple issues can be introduced and considered in context through a series of "as applied" assignments. Students will also be prepared better to fend for themselves--the course is now oriented more toward capacity building through deep knowledge and deep process exercises. At least that is the hope.
The syllabus, relevant portions of which follow, including a Statement of Course Content and Structure. All still remains very much a work in progress. That is as it should be for a field of law-politics-economics that is still in its infancy. Comments and suggestions still gratefully appreciated. The full syllabus may be accessed HERE, along with Versions 1.0 and 2.0. I will report form time to time on the course.