Labour rights and working conditions in corporate codes of conduct: an assessment of the legal dimension, in different national contexts, of selected multinational corporations’ corporate social responsibility commitments
Tiemeni, Thierry Galani
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At the heart of this thesis is the notion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), an innovative concept deep-rooted in the globalisation phenomenon. The notion of CSR entails the much-debated duty of businesses, not only to comply with international and local standards in terms of, inter alia, labour rights and working conditions, human rights and environmental protection, but also to be at the forefront of voluntary and uplifting actions geared toward addressing societal issues and concerns. For corporations, it is about moving from the traditional approach of business as an activity with the sole purpose of realising profit towards acknowledging the need to integrate societal and environmental issues and concerns into their business purposes. The thesis examines selected multinational corporations’ (MNC) approaches to CSR as contained in their codes of conduct, in an effort to reach a comprehensive understanding of the purpose, interest and practices of businesses engaging in CSR activities. Particular attention is given to the analysis of labour orientated measures implemented by selected MNCs as they undertake to voluntarily act as proponents of the theory of the necessity of socially responsible businesses. The aim is to comparatively assess the legal dimension and the relevance, in different countries, of these MNC CSR commitments. The first part of the thesis is theoretical and has the purpose to present a comprehensive analysis of CSR against the current legal framework, at a global scale and within the context of selected countries. The thesis will explore the notion of CSR in order to present its definition and characteristics, briefly retrace its history, differentiate it from related and/or similar concepts, and finally assess the extent of its introduction and adaptation into various national and international institutional frameworks. Even though initially addressing the issue of CSR in the current legal framework as a whole, the scope of the thesis will ultimately be reduced to focus only on labour-related aspects of CSR. The aim of the thesis is to assess MNC’s CSR commitments, and subsequently highlight the interaction between CSR, labour and employment legal frameworks (at national and international level) and the effective implementation of labour rights and working conditions as observed in the context of different countries. More importantly, the thesis will also include a comparative analysis of CSR principles included in selected MNC codes of conduct, in order to assess the extent of their compliance with national labour legislation, international labour standards, as well as the standards and principles set by national and international CSR instruments and institutions. The purpose of such an exercise is to thoroughly assess the impact of a national context - in terms of national legal, economic, social and industrial framework - on the legal dimension, and the relevance of MNCs CSR commitments. A crucial argument developed in the thesis refers to the fact that MNC codes of conduct may have the potential to impact on labour rights and working conditions of a MNC across the different countries into which the MNC operates. Finally, considering the fact that as a topic CSR is a potentially controversial subject, it is necessary to point out, from the onset, that the thesis engages with the subject from a critical perspective. The approach therefore entails critically analysing and discussing MNC commitments and practices as observed in different countries, so as to be able to ascertain and comprehend the impact of a national context on the content, the relevance and the legal dimension of MNC codes of conducts.
- Doctor Legum - LLD 
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