CSR & the Job Hunt: "Challenge Is, They Don't Really Know What a Sustainability Manager Does"

by Aman Singh Das | June 25, 2010

  • My Vault

I'm having a major epiphany - I've actually been buildinga career in Sustainability my entire working career.

It started with teaching adult literacy in theworkplace in the nineties. Then broadened to consulting in training &development, organizational development & change management at PwC . Then narrowed my focus yet againto Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE), i.e., diversity consultingand training. I then morphed again to Performance Improvement and buildingSocial Dialogue in manufacturing environments for the ILO. Then flowed intocapacity-building for nonprofits and GRI-reporting as I followed my passion forfinding the heart in business. I couldn't believe my luck when Idiscovered a way of driving improvement, reducing waste, saving the planet,engaging stakeholders, developing strategies, changing hearts and minds andplaying with graphs and info graphics and writing all in onejob!

So as I sitback with a smug look on my face, it's not long before my favorite dilemmastarts to loop endlessly in my mind … ah no … not that one again …

… should I continue as a self-employedconsultant, or is it time to get "a job." Can I really keep advisingcompanies what to do if I don't do it myself sometime?

Right. The only way to answer this question is tosee what opportunities are out there. So! To the recruiting websites Igo.

Sustainability jobs, careers and information on corporateresponsibility

Not much out there for sustainabilitypositions in South Africa. I'm surprised. Well, maybe we're still in theexternal consultant phase and sustainability hasn't become a mainstreamfunction in overall business strategy yet. (Note to self: bettercirculate the UN Global Compact and Accenture survey of CEOs onSustainability far and wide in SA.)

A quick peek at what kinds of positions areavailable in US, Europe, Australia. Good grief! You can take your pick! Must besomething wrong with my search criteria in SA.

Back to Google. Nope. Still not much out there. Afew positions in "Transformation" (read how to improve my score on myBBBEE Scorecard); couple of opportunities in Mining (read how to submit my Socialand Labor Plan to get my mining license renewed). I'm still not excited. Bitsand bobs in the Financial Services Sector. Not for me. Too serious. A ha! FMCGstarts to pop up. Now that's my bag. Get me to the factory!

I apply forfour positions.

First response: "Sorry, we're notlooking at anyone who is not … ofcolour." True's bob. All I can do is refer them to my blog postAffirmative Action is a Sustainability Issue.I can't believe we're still incorrectly implementing such a crucial piece oflegislation.

Secondposition: No response (Note to recruiters: You might want to put thiscandidate forward for other positions in the future. Rudeness and inefficiencyon your part is not going to help your cause. Send an acknowledgement. Then letapplicants know the outcome. Really. If we wanted to work for a company, we'reinterested in knowing what happened to our application.)

Thirdposition: Well not really a vacancy, someone who's working in the field at oneof the most progressive retailers in South Africa. I send him my resume via amutual connection. Response: Not much movement here, but will forward to agentwho placed me here. (Read: Are you crazy? There's like two positions in thecountry and you think one of us is going to give it up?)

Fourth position: Said recruiter calls me. Lovingyour resume, Mags. Now the client we have is looking for a Sustainability Manager. They're asupplier to aforementioned progressive retailer. Challenge is, theydon't really know what a Sustainability Manager does. (Readprogressive retailer is working their supply chain hard around sustainabilityissues. They keep saying this word 'sustainability'. They keep saying thingslike 'social' and 'environmental issues'. Gosh. We may lose our biggestaccount. Best we get ourselves one of those sustainability person thingy's.)

So I trotoff a job spec and a motivation for the business case for sustainability forsuch a supplier in the SA environment. Needless to say I left out the'it's the right thing to do part' -- that'd go down like a lead balloon.They're not too big on brand and reputation yet either. Compliance only goes sofar as a carrot in terms of BBBEE legislation and you can be sure they've neverheard of King III and would no doubt say "Governance is somethingonly non-profits do, isn't it?!"

You guessedit - I went the eco-efficiency, huge savings for you argument.

Ha. SeemsI'm consulting my way into a job.

--By Mags Shapiro. Magsis an independent consultant in sustainability. She spends half her time in thecorporate world making businesses more socially and environmentally consciousand half her time in the non-profit world making CSOs more business-like. Sheis a Board Member of PeacePlayers International - SA, Community Advisor/Bloggerfor Human Capital Institute Africa, and Quality Control consultant for the GRIin South Africa. She is currently completing a Master's in Commerce at UKZN inCorporate Citizenship. Connect with her on Twitter @MagsShapiro.

Filed Under: CSR

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