The U.K.-based law firm, CMF (Cameron McKenna), recently surveyed senior executives (presumably in Britain). According to the Financial Times (July 14, 2005) “one-third of senior executives said that while the Chief Executive has overall responsibility for corporate social responsibility, in-house lawyers come second. More than half the respondents said in-house lawyers should take a lead on corporate responsibility.”
With good reason, I believe, many general counsel would balk at this added responsibility. The corporate social responsibility mantle reaches all manner of social, environmental, and business practices. For one, it encroaches on the proper work of a compliance group. Not every demand of society should be legalized, including adherence to ethical standards, nor all forms of risk management. The law department’s role should be to interpret, negotiate, and defend, not to promote and enforce the ambitious agenda of corporate social activism.