Globalization and privatization have enabled corporations to grow ever more powerful; some corporations are taking over functions and services that used to be the purview of governments. This increased power carries with it responsibilities. Indeed, social and environmental expectations of corporations have changed apace; the notion that corporations and their managers are responsible only to their shareholders has become obsolete. The norm established today is one in which the corporation is expected to consider the social and environmental impact of their actions on a broad range of stakeholders: shareholders of course, but also employees, customers, suppliers, neighbors – the entire community and environment they inhabit. There can be no doubt that the “cottage cheese protest” and the social uprising that followed it during the summer of 2011 in Israel, show that this approach to corporate citizenship is taking root in Zion too.
This was the background for the formation in 2008, of the Corporate Social Responsibility Clinic which in turn, lead to the creation of the Corporate Social Responsibility Institute in 2011. The Institute, the only one of its kind in Israel, is an independent body dedicated to protecting and promoting the public interest in the myriad aspects in which corporations and Israeli society interact. The Institute concerns itself primarily with the following areas:
– Sustainability reports
– Privatization and regulation – primarily in the field of natural resources
– Protecting the public interest in the stock market
– Tax justice
The Corporate Social Responsibility Institute is the first of its kind in Israel and is distinguished by four features:
First, most bodies concerned with corporate social responsibility (CSR) are under the auspices of business schools, our institute is attached to the law school. This choice grew out of a belief that touching on the sometimes neglected legal aspects of CSR (a field seen as primarily voluntary) may challenge the normally staid and conservative legal field while promoting social change.
Second, in contrast with other Israeli CSR organizations, the Institute does not look to the corporations for its orientation or dependent on them for its funding. The Institute offers an objective academic platform free of political and economic pressures; one that enables an inclusive view of the public interest and an impartial discussion on these topics.
Third, apart from its academic and research activities, as a leading authority in the field of CSR, the Institute can make use of a variety of tools: proposing and promoting bills in the legislature, bringing lawsuits, contacting regulators, maintaining a presence in the media, publishing position papers and holding conferences. Additionally, the institute runs two legal clinics for students: the CSR Clinic and the Capital Markets clinic.
Lastly, the institute is part of the Academic Center of Law and Business. As such, it is committed to instilling in students, not only a high degree of professionalism, but also, and especially, a sense of ethical engagement and responsibility toward the community. It is this rich and deeply held professional approach which makes the Academic Center for Law and Business a unique and committed setting for the Corporate Social Responsibility Institute and its vision.