fbpx Corporate Responsibility and New Governance Models | Harvard Kennedy School
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Jane Nelson

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy

This module provides an overview of corporate responsibility (CSR) and responsible investment, focusing on today's interplay between large corporations and governments, intergovernmental institutions, investors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Over the past several decades many factors have contributed to increased expectations for corporations to adopt CSR programs as governments have reduced their regulatory and ownership roles in favor of market-based approaches. Advocates have seen CSR as a means of addressing governance gaps where government is weak. Critics have seen CSR as an intrusion of corporate interests in the public sphere where government is strong. During its evolution, CSR has progressed from traditional philanthropy to encompass not only what companies do with their profits, but also how they make them. Through their stakeholder relations and business models, companies can help address environmental concerns, human rights public policies and practices. Companies can also identify opportunities for innovative products, technologies and business models aimed at solving social or environmental challenges. CSR has also become a tool for investors, to mitigate emerging social, environmental and governance risks and to identify opportunities for aligning financial performance with social, environmental and governance (ESG) performance. In addition, CSR has become a lever for civil society organizations to influence corporate practice and public policy. The course focuses on large multinational corporations and examines tools used to improve corporate social risk management, accountability and transparency and tools used to enhance corporate social innovation and shared value. What has worked, what hasn't, and why? What are CSR's limits? What is the future of CSR? The module surveys the literature and examines topical examples drawn from today's U.S. and global experiences.