The legalization of corporate social responsibility: towards a new doctrine of international legal status in a global governance context

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis examines whether Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the responsibilities of business enterprises for human rights have been legally defined in international, European law and national law. This analysis, in turn, generates novel insights and impetus for reconsidering the international legal personality of business enterprises. If CSR has emerged in the law as a new category of legal obligations at the international level, which this thesis finds is not the case, this may be the breakthrough that renders business enterprises subjects of international law. Yet, CSR regulatory initiatives are trends in global governance that increasingly question the relevance of the (arguably still dominant) positivist perspective and, hence, conventional doctrines on international legal personality. This thesis confronts and tests the validity of, existing doctrinal approaches to the legal personality of business enterprises with the evolving realities of the emerging business and human rights regime. In doing so, insights are drawn from theoretical approaches to global governance to determine the impact of CSR, and the responsibilities of business enterprises for human rights, in the thorny topic of ‘subjects of (international) law’ and what, if anything, makes business enterprises ‘legal persons’ in a global governance context.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Laws
Awarding Institution
  • KU Leuven
  • Van Calster, Geert, Promotor, External person
  • Wouters, Jan, Co-promotor, External person
Award date24 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes


Cite this