A CSR Executive's Career Path

by Aman Singh Das | May 06, 2011

"How do you further embed CSR into the business? What are the best ways to really make this a part of everybody's day job?"

These aren't just rhetorical questions for Suzanne Fallender.

As director of strategy and communications for Intel's Global Corporate Responsibility office, these form the core of her team's mission, no easy task when you are No. 56 on the Fortune 500 with a headcount of over 80,000. But Fallender's diverse experience, analytical approach and calm demeanor has ensured clarity on an often hard-to-define concept like responsibility, trust and ethical behavior for any company.

She is what I like to call a "vocal brand ambassador." Today, Fallender is not just the woman responsible for Intel's Annual CSR Report. She is the face of CSR@Intel.

The point person for a myriad of duties internally and externally, Fallender—who began her career with a degree in liberal arts—represents the business case for CSR.

But how did she get here after a double major in political science and music? How does anyone become a "CSR executive"? Over a series of posts, Vault's CSR blog will look at Fallender's personal career path, the evolution of CSR at Intel, why she believes that the best of CSR is yet ahead, the relationship with HR, and how students and jobseekers can best pursue a career in corporate social responsibility.

First, here's her story:

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CSR before Enron

Intel's Director of CSR Strategy and Communication Suzanne Fallender

Some people are surprised to know that I graduated with a liberal arts degree: A double major in political science and music!

All I knew was that I wanted to do something in the international field. My first job was at an international shareholders' services company. This was pre-Enron and WorldCom and I was doing corporate governance research.

Soon enough, I moved to socially responsible investing (SRI) and ended up leading their SRI services for three years. That was my first exposure to people who had CSR jobs.

Then I went back to school to get my MBA.

My aim: To enhance my SRI experience with an MBA to apply the same principles to the corporate side. So throughout business school, I focused my job search on CSR roles. Even then it was very hard to find those opportunities, even though I had about 10 years of experience in the space.

CSR Internship with Intel

I did eventually land an internship at Intel's CSR group, loved it, and hoped to come back when I graduated. For me, it was the perfect combination of a company with a long history of CSR and one that I would be proud to work for besides the opportunity to work with amazingly smart people creating cutting edge technology. But, of course, as many graduates today know–timing is everything, and they didn't have an opening when I graduated. But a year later they did, and now I have been with Intel for four years.

It's been a great path.

Evolution of CSR as a Career Path

I don't think the role will ever go away, but it will evolve.

I do think that there is still—even at a company where CSR is very mature—opportunity to develop and empower other people within the company to be CSR leaders. I want to take the next big chunk of my career to do that.

Significant Demand for CSR outside Fortune 200

There is going to be more demand for people who know how to build systems internally and engage senior management, board of directors, and help them going forward. There are a ton of small- and medium-sized businesses that can use CSR people.

Even when you get out of the fortune 200, there are a lot of companies that don't have anything yet. And they are looking for people who have industry experience. People who are in CSR could also specialize in a functional area, or have a similar role in a different company—you can move to supply chain, you can move to HR, etc.

The CSR Team at Intel

At Intel, I work in the global corporate responsibility office, which is part of legal and corporate affairs. We don't have a huge, central group. Instead we have several groups across the company that manage different aspects of CSR. We mainly manage stakeholder engagement and public reporting and work as an internal advisor to help inform strategy, meeting with senior leaders in the different groups to help them understand how we're positioned against other companies, to help identify gaps, goal setting, etc.

The Evolution of CSR

CSR is definitely mainstreaming and I find that both externally and within Intel.

Externally, you see more conferences, more people talking about it who weren't talking about it before, especially the investor side of businesses. We've started to receive many more speaking requests for events that we weren't being invited to before.

For Intel, lately some people are surprised to know that we did our first environmental responsibility report in 1994—we've had people managing the different aspects for a long time now.

But what has changed is that people are really engaging on sustainability and asking questions like "I manage event marketing; how can I integrate sustainability factors into my events" for example. We host a big conference every year called the Intel Developer Forum so there's a small team of people who work with purchasing, coordinate with us and environment, health and safety (EHS) on identifying what they can do to affect the environmental impact of that major event.

They then took what they learned and applied it to the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing.

Last year, they did four different events and then wrote a Green Events Handbook for internal use so that other people who host smaller events across Intel can reduce their environmental impact too. This is truly driven by the employees because they said, "How does this apply to me and my role?"

This is new as well.

In the last two years, we're having many more conversations with people in purchasing, corporate finance, supply chain, marketing, etc. on what role they can play and how they can share that across the company.

People are starting to connect the dots like they never have before.

Filed Under: CSR


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