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24 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 99 (2017)


A central question in the debate on corporate social responsibility is to what extent CSR codes can be enforced among private parties. This contribution argues that this question is best answered by reference to the applicable doctrinal legal system. Such a doctrinal approach has recently regained importance in American scholarship, while it is still the prevailing method of legal analysis in Europe. Applying a doctrinal analysis of CSR codes allows for the possibility of private law enforcement, that is, enforcement by means of contract or tort, dependent on three different elements: the exact type of claim that is brought, the evolving societal standards about the binding nature of CSR codes, and the normative complexity of the doctrinal system itself. This approach allows for a typology of cases in which the enforceability of CSR codes can be disputed. It is subsequently argued that societal standards have not yet reached the stage where the average consumer who buys a product from a retailer can hold that retailer legally liable for violations of the norms incorporated in the code.