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Corporate Social responsiblility


Admission requirements

None. Proficiency in English both orally and in writing is recommended.


Business decisions impact on all levels of society. Therefore companies have been encouraged by governments, international organisations and civil society to conduct their business in a ‘socially responsible way’ and to pursue ‘best practices’ that enhance value in three dimensions: ‘Planet, People, Profit’.
This course on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) will focus on the place of CSR in society and the law, and address the role of the stakeholders involved in CSR. Students will be introduced in the laws and regulations applicable in CSR issues, including some aspects of international and European law concerning business, human rights and environmental issues. They will receive general knowledge of the major issues regarding legal topics on CSR, such as the influence of corporate government codes, the responsibility of parent companies for their subsidiaries doing business abroad, contractual remedies in the field of CSR and their limits with a view to market regulation. In addition, they will have the chance to speak, in person, with business respresentatives about CSR dilemmas.
During this interactive course on CSR, students will perform individually, collaborate on tasks, and participate in discussions on CSR dilemmas. Using general analytical and practical skill to assess CSR dilemmas, students will deduce and address the relevant questions from a given case and find the relevant (international) sources. Students will be taught the ability to demonstrate a critical and independent view when confronted with a CSR issue, and report orally and in writing. They will work with the course material to the extent that they can locate and assess the relevant concepts and reflect on the views presented. Basic knowledge of corporate law, private law and human rights is sufficient for participation.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course

The principal objectives of this course are:

  • to introduce definitions and examples of corporate social responsibility (CSR);

  • to introduce the business environment and the stakeholder approach;

  • to introduce the most salient aspects of CSR in a national and global context;

  • to introduce international, European and Dutch legal and policy aspects of CSR;

  • to enhance the awareness of the dilemmas intrinsic to doing business on a global scale;

  • to introduce the role of the private lawyer in a capacity as a business lawyer, in-house counsel, attorney, CSR compliance offer, advising the company and responding to its stakeholders;

  • to identify the instruments that private lawyers can use to implement CSR and to assess the nature of those instruments (voluntary or binding);

  • to study instruments at the corporate level such as Corporate Supplier Codes of Conduct and to assess their nature (legally binding or not).

Achievement levels

By the end of the course the students should have:

  • an understanding of CSR dilemmas; students should be able to recognize CSR dilemmas, and they should have an understanding of the position of the principle stakeholders; students should have an understanding of their role as future international business lawyers;

  • a general knowledge of the laws, regulations and policies applicable in CSR issues, including among others the OECD guidelines, the Ruggie framework, the UN Global Compact, the Voluntary Principles and the Dutch corporate government code;

  • a general analytical and practical skill to assess CSR dilemmas, in the sense that students should be able to define a CSR problem, define the stakeholders involved, define and assess decisions at a corporate management level that are relevant to CSR, assess in dealing with CSR matters the role of the laws, regulations and policies such as the OECD guidelines, and the Ruggie framework, assess the legal relationship between a corporation and its suppliers;

  • a general analytical and practical skill to assess the legal meaning of a CSR corporate policy such as a Corporate Supplier Code of Conduct; draft a contractual clause on CSR between a company and its supplier;

  • an understanding of the responsibility of parent companies for their subsidiaries doing business abroad; an understanding of liability and contractual instruments relevant to CSR;

  • a general analytical and practical skill to work with the course material (book), use the information in essays, and reflect on the information using the course material (book);

  • a general practical skill to work with fellow students and discuss CSR dilemmas;

  • the know-how to express their views in writing, following in a clear line of reasoning; the know-how to write essays in the form of a blog for Leiden Law Blog; a general experience with reviewing the written essays of fellow students.


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 5 plus opening session one week prior to start course

  • Names of lecturers: Prof. mr. A.G. Castermans and mr. dr. C.P.L. van Woensel

  • Required preparation by students: course book additional reading material on Blackboard


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 5

  • Names of instructors: Prof. mr. A.G. Castermans and mr. dr. C.P.L. van Woensel

  • Required preparation by students: weekly assignments (students need to write essays; practice feedback; and present views orally, both in small teams and individually)

Other methods of instruction

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

A. The assessment of this course is based on two elements:
1. Two graded assignments consisting of a one-page, written essay on the topic of the week.

  • The essays are in the form of a blog for Leiden Law Blog. Students are instructed toaddress specific questions in connection with the topic of the week while referring to and reflecting on relevant sections of the course book , all of which is explained in the assignments.

  • The assignments will be graded individually on a 0-10 point-scale. The two grades combined will earn the student a maximum of 20 points, out of a 100 in total. For example, a student can score 6 points and 7 points which means he has scored 13 points, which will be added to the points he will earn on the final exam.

  • The assignments cannot be retaken.

  • In order to enhance various practical skills, there will be practical exercises such as team presentations and the practice of writing skills and research skills. The practical exercises will be graded with ‘very good’, ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.

  1. One, final exam at the end of the course consisting of a written essay of 750 words on a dilemma in the field of corporate social responsibility.
  • Students are instructed to read a certain news or background article provided with the exam, address certain specific questions in their essay, while also referring to and reflecting on relevant parts of the course book, all of which is explained in the exam instructions.

  • This essay will earn the student a maximum of 80 points out of a 100. For example, a student can earn 56 points for the final exam.

  • All points earned together make up the final grade. The student in the example earns 13 + 56 = 69 points out of a 100 points in total, which means that the student passes (a ‘7’ in uSis).

  • All assignments, and both the exam and the re-exam, are in English.

B. Students must submit the two graded assignments on time and fulfill the assignments in a serious way.

  • They may not miss the graded assignments.

  • Assignments that are handed in late or not fulfilled in a serious way count as ‘missed’.

  • In addition, students must also complete the practical exercises on time and in a serious way. They may miss two practical exercises but no more.

  • Furthermore, students must be present during the lectures and seminars.

  • This course requires participation and students therefore may miss 2 out of 6 sessions at most. Students have to sign for attendance at the start and at the end of each session.

C. Re-examination is open only to course participants who:

  • Failed in the regular exam; unless permission is obtained from the course teachers prior to the exam to miss the regular exam and do the re-exam. In that case, however, there is no second chance and the student must re-take the entire course the following academic year
    The 20% score earned during the course counts for the re-examination, but is no longer valid after that. If a student has not passed the course by the end of the academic year, the scores for the assignments, the exam, and the re-exam are no longer valid.
    The final grade is established if the student has achieved a score on both elements i.e. (1) the graded assignments during the course, and (2) the final exam at the end of the course or the re-exam.

Submission procedures
To be announced in course book and/or on Blackboard.

Areas to be tested within the exam
All subjects taught in the lectures, all required reading (literature, case-law) published here and on Blackboard, all other instructions and skills taught during the course.


More information on this course is offered on Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials


  • A.T. Lawrence & J. Weber, Business and society, McGraw-Hill 2013 / 2014.

  • Students are advised to keep an eye on Blackboard, where additional reading material, the practical exercises and the assignments will be announced.


Registration using uSis.
Participants are also asked to enroll on Blackboard (CSR).

Contact information

  • Co-ordinator: Mr. dr. C.P.L. (Caspar) van Woensel

  • Work address: Steenschuur 25, room number C.201

  • Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 7400

  • Email:


  • Institute: Leiden Law School, Institute for Private Law

  • Department: Civil Law

  • Room number secretary: C.202

  • Opening hours: Daily, 9:00-13:30

  • Telephone number secretary: +31 (0)71 527 7400

  • Email:


If you have questions regarding the course, please contact Ms Van Barneveld (details above).


Belangstellenden die deze cursus in het kader van contractonderwijs willen volgen (met tentamen), kunnen meer informatie vinden over kosten, inschrijving, voorwaarden, etc. op de website van Juridisch PAO.