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North Carolina Journal of International Law


This Article identifies the newer global soft law norms in international business transactions and unique synergies between cultural competency and corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) for corporate lawyers. With the advent of widespread and varied corporate human rights abuses in various contexts, the international community has struggled with appropriate responses to deter harmful corporate action. The United States and its corporate actors are subject to hard U.S. laws, such as those federal and state laws attempting to prevent international human trafficking, environmental harm, use of underage workers, and foreign corrupt practices. This Article provides an overview of the global epidemic of bad corporate actions in international business contracts and subsequent supply chains, and reviews the currently applicable conventions, domestic U.S. laws, and soft law norms which exist to deter illegal activities by multinational enterprises (“MNEs”). To better discourage U.S. and global legal actions in the future, international lawyers should advise MNEs to adopt more stringent CSR policies, anticipate possible harms or bad actors in the supply chain through cultural competence to promote more globally ethical behavior, and identify areas in the contract negotiation process that would favorably protect MNEs through inclusion of applicable soft law norms and hard U.S. law deterrents. This approach will incorporate the current U.N. and OECD Conventions and pave the way for furthering more widespread adoption of global ethics to deter illegal activities and ideally combat the very unfortunate tensions for corporate counsel between profit and harm to individuals, or will hopefully protect disadvantaged groups in countries throughout the world. Overall, the Article will provide a succinct and globally ethical approach for professors who are training corporate lawyers to convey the existing international and domestic legal norms and provide a checklist of items for corporate counsel to include in their international business contracts. This will ensure that the attorneys have discussed the vital issues of CSR, international human rights, and cultural norms at the outset of the discussion with clients and that they have researched plausible areas of liability. The three-step approach should better prepare our law students to practice in a global corporate practice.

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College of Law



Suggested Citation

Heidi F. Kuehl, Global Legal Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility: Where's the Beef?, 46 N.C. J. Int'l L. 111 (2021).

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