From pro bono to volunteering, the CSR ‘label’ adds impetus to the best initiatives.

A comedian once mooted the launch of an ‘unethical investment fund’ which would direct managed funds towards ventures related to seal clubbing and arms manufacturing. Poking fun at business claims to corporate social responsibility can be easy.

How should lawyers avoid being the butt of such jokes? Their task is made more difficult because, by definition, they must uphold and promote the rule of law – outside SDT hearings, unethical solicitors should not exist.

Those law firms and in-house legal teams who earn respect in this area take their professional identity as a baseline and seek ways to go further. In doing so, they aim to make an identifiable difference in their chosen areas of activity. They do not expect special recognition for simply doing the day job.

A huge range of activities comes under the ‘CSR’ banner – from pro bono advice to volunteering in the community, to working to improve the skills of people from a disadvantaged background and charity fundraising. It also covers initiatives to improve the way an organisation works, reducing its carbon footprint, or setting ‘stretch targets’ on equality and diversity.

Some argue that none of this needs a label – that it should be regarded as normal. But what the best work here acquires from being designated ‘CSR’ is the impetus that comes from a very public commitment and support from the highest levels.