Boards of large UK companies are devoting more time to the governance of corporate social responsibility (CSR). This is in line with the Combined Code on Corporate Governance's requirement that boards set standards and values for companies and ensure they meet their social obligations. But is board activity in this area as effective as it could be at achieving corporate compliance with CSR standards? This paper draws on the economic literature to offer an analysis of the primary causes of breaches of corporate responsibility standards. Based on a small survey of the board CSR activities of 20 of Britain's largest companies, it assesses whether boards are addressing these causes effectively. The tentative conclusion is that board activity might usefully be reoriented to do more to address the fundamental incentives problems that often cause corporate responsibility failures, namely market failure and misaligned performance management systems. Copyright (c) 2007 The Author; Journal compilation (c) 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.