Corporate social responsibility is back on the corporate law reform agenda. From an Australian perspective, the evidence for this is found in the simultaneous but separate inquiries that, at the time of writing this paper, are being conducted into this topic by the Australian Parliament’s Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, and by the Australian Government’s Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee (CAMAC). These developments are supported by the many standards, guidelines, principles, and codes promulgated by non-government bodies, industry groups and other international organisations.
Cynics might dismiss these developments as part of a regular cycle of corporate law reform. After all, as we will see, this is not the first time that corporate social responsibility has appeared on the reform agenda. Others might suggest that, finally, this is an idea whose time has come. The purpose of this paper by Stephen Bottomley and Anthony Forsyth is to examine the extent to which this renewed, and widespread, attention to corporate social responsibility is being reflected in the substance of our systems of corporate law. Is it possible, and meaningful, to talk of a ‘new corporate law’ in which the concerns of people other than shareholders (or, indeed, the non-financial concerns of shareholders) are to be given serious attention?