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Corporate Social Responsibility


Admission requirements

None. Basic knowledge of corporate law, private law, and human rights is sufficient for meaningful participation. Proficiency in English both orally and in writing is strongly 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) for students of International Business Law explains the place of CSR in law and society and addresses how stakeholders relate to business. As a participant, you are introduced to the legal and policy framework applicable to CSR. You receive general knowledge of the principle legal instruments such as corporate codes of conduct, the responsibility of parent companies for their subsidiaries abroad, and contractual remedies and their limits with a view to market regulation. In addition, you have a chance to speak with business leaders from a variety of industries who know first-hand about CSR dilemmas and how to confront them.

This course is set up as an interactive course. You perform individually as well as in a team, you collaborate on tasks, and participate in discussions on CSR dilemmas. Using general analytical and practical skills to assess CSR dilemmas, you deduce and address the relevant questions from a given case and find the relevant sources. You demonstrate a critical and independent view when confronting a CSR issue, using the Coursebook and the applicable CSR framework as your guideline. You communicate your considerations both in written essays and oral presentations.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
The principal objectives of this course are:

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

  • to familiarise you with the business environment and the stakeholder approach;

  • to present the most salient aspects of CSR in a national, European and global context;

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

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

  • to understand the role of the private lawyer in a capacity as a business lawyer, in-house counsel, attorney, or CSR compliance offer, in advising corporations and responding to their stakeholders;

  • to identify the instruments of private lawyers to implement CSR policies and to assess the nature of those instruments (voluntary or not; legally binding or not);

  • 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 be able to:

  • identify different types of CSR dilemmas and understand the positions of the principal stakeholders, the different roles and perspectives with regard to CSR, and their role as future international business lawyers;

  • identify and have a general knowledge of the laws, regulations, and policies applicable in CSR issues (the ‘CSR Framework’), including the OECD guidelines, the Ruggie framework, and the UN Global Compact; and understand the underlying objectives or policy principles;

  • demonstrate a general analytical and practical skill to assess CSR dilemmas, i.e., to define a CSR problem, identify the stakeholders involved, determine and assess decisions at a corporate management level that are relevant to CSR;

  • demonstrate a general analytical and practical skill to assess the legal meaning of a CSR corporate policy such as a corporate supplier code of conduct;

  • apply the CSR Framework, particularly the role of the OECD guidelines, the Ruggie framework and other CSR instruments dealing with CSR matters, in understanding and assessing the legal relationship between a corporation and its suppliers; the responsibility of parent companies for their subsidiaries doing business abroad; and the liability in CSR matters;

  • apply the CSR Framework in assessing the content of contractual instruments relevant to CSR and draft a contractual clause on CSR between a company and its supplier;

  • work with and reflect critically on the course material, including on the CSR Framework, company CSR policies, and solutions to CSR dilemmas;

  • express their views in written essays, following in a clear line of reasoning and applying the course material, and to review the essays of fellow students;

  • work together with fellow students and discuss CSR dilemmas, present written and oral communications professionally and argue one’s point of view analytically and persuasively.


Check MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 5

  • Names of lecturers: prof. mr. A.G. Castermans and mr. C.J.W. Baaij

  • Required preparation by students: participants are required to prepare reading material for each session as announced in the course syllabus.

  • Bring the book to class as we will work with the cases and questions.


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 5

  • Names of instructors: prof. mr. A.G. Castermans and mr. C.J.W. Baaij

  • Required preparation by students: participants are required to prepare reading material for each session as announced in the course syllabus.

  • Bring the book to class as we will work with the cases and questions.

  • Participants are required to hand in essays; practice feedback; present views in class.

To get the most out of this interactive class, we invite you to participate with enthusiasm and to complete the practical exercises and graded assignments. Attendance and participation in both class discussions and group exercises are compulsory. You will be excluded from the course as well as the exam and the retake exam if you:

  • miss one or both of the first two meetings of the first week;

  • miss more than one meeting in de subsequent weeks; or

  • do not participate genuinely, that is to say, if you are unable to convey what is covered in the assigned book chapters when prompted in class, fail to partake in the group activities, or do not join in class discussions through the asking of informed questions or reflecting critically on the relevant subject matter.

In very rare circumstances, the course instructors may permit an exception, provided the student submits a reasoned request (well) in advance.

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

A. The assessment of this course is based on two elements:

  1. Assignment I and assignment II:
    Two graded group assignments consisting of a written essay of max. 350 words:
  • Students are instructed to address specific questions in connection with the presented topic while referring to and reflecting on relevant sources, all of which is explained in the assignments.

  • In order to enhance various practical skills, there will also be practical exercises such as team presentations and the practice of writing skills and research skills. The practical exercises will not be graded but are still essential preparation for both the assignments and the exam.

  1. Final exam:
    Completing a take-home, limited-time, open-book exam at the end of the course consisting of a written essay of max. 750 words:
  • Students are instructed to address specific questions in connection with the presented topic while referring to and reflecting on relevant sources, all of which is explained in the exam.

  • Students will be instructed to read a case introduction and address a set of questions in their essay, which will be in the form of a blog on, while also referring to and reflecting on relevant parts of the course material, all of which is explained in the exam.

  • Even though the exam is an open-book exam, deliberating or cooperating with other students in any form or degree is strictly prohibited. If such conduct is detected or suspected, the instructors will bring the matter to the exam committee.

B. Grading

  • For a final grade to be established, the following assessments must be completed: assignment I, assignment II and the final exam.

  • Each assignment counts towards 10% of the grade, hence 20% of the total grade, while the final exam presents 80% of the grade.

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

  • Students must submit on time and fulfill the two assignments in a serious way. Students may not miss the assignments, including meaningful participation in the team, or they are excluded from taking part in the exam and the re-exam. Assignments handed in late or not fulfilled in a serious way will count as ‘missed.’ The assignments cannot be retaken.

  • The final exam will earn the student a maximum of 80 points out of 100. For example, a student can earn 56 points for the final exam. All points earned for the two assignments and the final exam together make up the final grade. The student in the example presented here earns 13 + 56 = 69 points out of 100 points in total, which means that the student passes (rounded off to a 7 in uSis).

C. Re-examination

  • Re-examination is open only to course participants who failed in the regular exam; unless prior permission is obtained from the course teachers to miss the regular exam and do the re-exam instead. In that case, however, there is no second chance, and the student must re-take the entire course in the following academic year.

  • The maximum of 20 points, out of a 100, earned on the assignments during the course also 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 on the assignments, the exam, and the re-exam are no longer valid and the student must re-take the entire course the following academic year.

Submission procedures
To be announced in the course book or on Brightspace.

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

Reading list

Obligatory course materials


  • Course book: A.G. Castermans & C.P.L. van Woensel (Eds.), CSR for young business lawyers, The Hague: Eleven 2017.

  • Additional readings: all compulsory and optional additional readings and case material will be published on Brightspace.


Check the website under “course and exam enrollment” for information on how to register for the course.

Participants are asked to register two weeks before the start of the course, to get access to Brightspace for reading material, and find instructions regarding the sessions and practical exercises and assignments. IBL students and exchange students have priority in the process of registration. Any remaining seats in the lecture hall are available to other students.

Contact information

For questions regarding this course, please contact the secretariat of Institute for Private Law (for contact information see 'Institution/division').


  • Institute: Leiden Law School, Institute for Private Law

  • Department: Civil Law

  • Room number secretary: B2.43

  • Opening hours: Daily, 9:00-13:30

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

  • Email:


In case of (corona)restrictions imposed by the government, this course description is subject to change.