Job Hunting in CSR Part 1: Will the Recession Serve As a Tipping Point for Corporate Responsibility?

by Aman Singh Das | July 15, 2010

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How do job seekers and business school graduatesview the rising awareness around concepts like triple bottom line, corporateresponsibility, and ethical management? I turned to four MBA candidates forsome answers: Ashley Jablow, Geetanjali Singh, Whit Tice and Larry Furman*. As I mentioned yesterday, we discussed whether thisrecession will serve as the necessary tipping point for corporate America'ssustainability? I also asked each of them whether recent Wall Street shortcomings were redefining MBAcurriculum at their schools, and if they saw this as necessary,optional or pervasive for future graduating classes.

For Tice, it is an issue of awareness or the lackof it. "Without awareness, there is no sense of urgency," he said.Furman, meanwhile, describes the current economy as the flat line of the CSRphenomenon curve. "CSR is a systems phenomenon. It is probably still onthe flat line of the curve. But it's a sigmoid curve. It will shoot up and thenlevel off. It has to. Businesses mustbecome socially responsible or risk losing their customers."

Jablow focused on how the recession had resultedin a bad rap for MBA students. "Given the financial crisis of the last fewyears, I think MBAs in general have been given a bad rap recently. Personally while in school I have reallyworked hard to refute those claims, because I take this very personally and Ihave chosen to go to business school so that I can create change and be anethical and responsible contributor to business."

CSR and social media blogger Ruhi Shamin commentedon this concept of connecting the personal and the professional, in a recentpost: "If consumers and activists have made progress in pressuring companiesto be more conscientious and proactive about social impact at a grassrootslevel, what role do talented jobseekers play in developing corporate social responsibility and what cancompanies do to attract the brightest, and most aware, employees?"

Tice put her question in perspective: "Whilein general, people understand that having higher morale, more workplace safetyand training for employees are great, they don’t necessarily tie to thinkingthat 'this is necessary for our organization to be more profitable,' becausethey are short-sighted in their focus. It's not necessarily of strategicimportance. This is what changes if an organization understands what a coordinated CSR effort would do and how that leads to more business opportunities."

In the end, each of the candidates agreed that completeembedding of corporate responsibility within company culture across Americarequired a coordinated push from employees, job seekers as well as students. Asfar as the latter demographic goes, student interest is prevalent acrosscampuses and business schools are responding by giving their curriculafacelifts.

The opinion was unanimous across the board for mypanel: CSR and sustainability must be integrated into business school curriculafor it to be effective and relevant. Jablow further indicated that a gradualcurriculum shift has been taking place at Boston University for the last fewyears to address this very necessity.

"BU has been incredibly responsive to studentinterest in these topics. There are a few key faculty champions who have takenthis up and turned it into course content very quickly. BU has done a good job of teaching CSR, whether it's talking about global sustainabilitychallenges—water, food, energy—or corporate engagement… There are also a numberof clean energy and technology classes that touch on sustainability issues. So,while it's not necessarily formalized into a CSR research center, like youmight see at other business schools, they're off to a good start."

Despite that, Jablow still has the sense that a lotmore that could be done with the core classes. "I know that BU and manyother schools are working to better integrate CSR concepts into the core curriculumright now. Given the financial crisis of the last few years, I think MBAs ingeneral have been given a bad rap recently. Personally while in school I havereally worked hard to refute those claims, because I take this very personallyand I have chosen to go to business school so that I can create change and bean ethical and responsible contributor to business."

Geetanjali Singh expressed similar sentiments:"This is something we've been working on with our dean. He is very passionateabout nonprofit management and wants to bring that as a track in school. Withthe UC funding being cut last year, we could not proceed in 2009. For now, we have a CSR class and a nonprofit management class." According to her, it'sonly getting better. "Besides curriculum, interestingly, the trend isincreasing. For example, there were five of us interested in CSR in my class.In the 2011 incoming class, there are 10 to 12 of them who are not onlyinterested but also knowledgeable about CSR."

Next: Connecting corporate responsibility with career objectives: CSR is a horizontal functionencompassing all industries and professions

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Ashley Jablow graduated from Boston University's School of Management with anMBA in CSR Marketing, Communications and Strategy in May, 2010. She is activelyengaged in discussing CSR through Twitterand her blog, The Changebase. Currently, she is lookingfor a fulltime job in corporate responsibility in the San Franciscoarea.

Geetanjali 'Geet' Singhgraduated in June 2010 from University of California-Irvine's Paul Merage School of Business with a concentrationon CSR, general management and strategy. Formerly from Mumbai, India, Singh iscurrently looking for a corporate responsibility job in Orange County,California and hopes that Silicon Valley will wake up to the business value inCSR. Connect with her on Twitter.

Whit Tice graduated with an MBAfrom Case Western's Weatherhead School of Management in2008 and decided to back it up with a Master's in Positive OrganizationalDevelopment and Change, also from Case Western, which he completed in 2009.Whit is currently with consulting firm Logic 20/20, where he is a ChangeManagement Senior Consultant, and continues to discuss systems thinking andorganizational development through his blog, The Organizational Strategist.

Larry Furman is a SustainabilityConsultant and currently pursuing an MBA in managing for sustainability from Marlboro College. He is a member of the program'sfirst graduating class and is looking forward to combining his experience in ITwith his passion for sustainable energy and green solutions.

Filed Under: CSR

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