Sustainability, responsibility and enterprise liability

Sustainability and CSR are current issues for all enterprises, both public and private. In recent years, the interest in and implementation of sustainable solutions have been growing at a fast pace. A large number of national and international parties contribute to this development, including national governments, EU, UN, OECD, NGOs, grass-roots organisations and private associations of people, enterprises and foundations. A main feature of CSR is that it has so far not been based on legislation (hard law) but is, on the contrary, a voluntary acceptance of guidelines, recommendations etc. (soft law), which are drawn up outside of the traditional legislative bodies. This project explores the extent to which CSR commitments, although conceived of as voluntary, may in fact generate legal effects under tort law or contract law, internalizing the principles and public law values found in international law and soft law. A separate but increasingly practically relevant question is the extent to which an enterprise can be held liable not only for its own actions but also for actions undertaken by subsidiaries (group liability) or subcontractors of the enterprise (supply chain liability). Another separate question is the role of organisations and NGO’s as driving factors in the CSR process, raising questions of both standing to sue as a means of enforcing enterprise liability and the possible liability of such groups of people.