Corporate Social Responsibility and the World Trade Organisation: Challenging the Status Quo

Pernille Lykke Hemme Hvolgaard

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

In the last decade, the debate on CSR in global trade has received increasing attention, as the conventional practices of the WTO are being challenged by a growing perception that the organisation needs to play an active role in promoting the three pillars of sustainability. The debate is marked by strong contrasting opinions, especially between developed and developing countries. The overall purpose of this thesis is to assess whether and how the WTO and its members can address CSR and related matters within the current institutional setting. As a critical study of the current situation where CSR is not being addressed by the WTO, the thesis seeks to challenge the status quo and advocate that there is a role for the WTO in regards to CSR. By analysing the institutional design of the WTO, the thesis seeks to identify the opportunities and barriers in regards to the three pillars of sustainability. The thesis attempts to highlight both sides of the debate, and based on these considerations, recommend changes to counteract the inequalities and injustices, which the separation of WTO and CSR is faulted for causing in the global society. Moreover, it is acknowledged in the research that there are considerable hurdles in employing the three pillars of sustainability in the WTO, given the substantially differing dispositions among members, as well as the strong neoliberal ideology embedded in the organisation. The thesis therefore seeks to address the complexity of the debate by examining the main arguments, and address the basis for challenging some of these notions in the WTO.
The thesis finds that it is feasible for the WTO to address CSR and related matters within the institutional design of the organisation to a limited extent. But recommends applying smaller changes, rather than pursuing amendments to the WTO agreements.
The thesis thus contributes to the debate on the role of CSR in international trade in general, as well as the debate on the development of the WTO in regards to the three pillars of sustainability. It also seeks to open the door more up for a debate in the larger context on the role of neoliberalism in respect to CSR, and how all three pillars of sustainability should be addressed in global trade.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2016
Number of pages76
SupervisorsSteen Vallentin