In the Classic Battle of CSR vs. Sustainability, We All Lose

by Aman Singh Das | January 27, 2011

  • My Vault

Two interesting—and conflicting—pieces of news hit my inbox this week.

40% of Job Seekers Look at Sustainability Record

The first one is a new "readers and reporters 2010" survey commissioned by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) that claims that prospective employees are actively seeking information on companies by looking at its sustainability report.

In fact, according to Online Recruitment, "Almost 40 percent of surveyed readers said they use sustainability reports in decisions about seeking employment with an organization." The survey, which polled 5,000 readers and writers of sustainability reports, and conducted by Futerra—a sustainability communications firm—SustainAbility and KPMG, was designed to find out why people value the reporting process.

The report goes on to quote Wim Bartels, the global head of sustainability assurance for KPMG:

"These findings place sustainability reporting right at the heart of business and reinforce its relevance and pivotal role. Reporting impacts whether business can attract the best talent, which without any doubt is a critical success factor for future success in the market."

MBAs Don't Care For Social Responsibility

The second piece of news comes via BNet, which reports a new study that says, despite the financial crisis, when students evaluate a job offer, reputation has only marginal value. This piece of research conducted by Melbourne Business School's Pat Auger and four other academicians from the University of Technology, Sydney, asked 303 MBA students to rank "28 attributes of a hypothetical job offer, including salary, bonus structure, potential for overseas postings, travel requirements, and the company's corporate reputation."

According to BNet, "They were then asked to list the top five companies they'd like to work for after graduation, and to list the five factors that made those companies appealing."

In the answers, "high ethical standards," received less than 10 percent of the votes. Next, when the students were asked to compare hypothetical job offers. Top choices were concerns about salary, advancement, and time and travel demands.

Sustainability vs. Corporate Social Responsibility?

So, what are we really saying? Jobseekers care for a company's efforts to make their operations green and more sustainable but not overall social responsibility?

Another statement from the second study that gives might offer clarity: Responses from students differed according to the field they wanted to pursue. Specifically, those anticipating careers in marketing, general management, and (wait for it) information technology cared most for corporate reputation.

Does this distinction make understanding these reports easier or more convoluted?

Just months ago a Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship (BCCCC) report concluded that a majority of CSR professionals work in the fields of marketing, communications and PR. Therefore, it would be correct to assume that students wanting to pursue these fields would, indeed, care for such attributes. Right?

Is this an  issue of stakeholder differences or once again a case of the age-old contest of terminology, i.e., what IS the difference between CSR, sustainability and corporate responsibility?

I'd like to throw this open to readers. How do you perceive these studies that, at least in my mind, are contradictory? For me, sustainability is a vital tenet of corporate social responsibility. But am I wrong?

Log in and leave a comment, email In Good Company or connect with me @VaultCSR.

Relevant reading:

Online Recruitment

BNet

Filed Under: CSR

Close button

Get tips on interviewing, networking, resumes, and more directly to your inbox.

No Thanks

Get Our Career Newsletter

Interview, resume and job search tips emailed directly to you.