Profiling the CSR Profession: What Does Working in Corporate Citizenship Involve?

by Aman Singh Das | December 08, 2010

  • My Vault

Earlier this year, the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship (BCCCC) came out with a survey that displayed a unique profile of the typical CSR and sustainability professional. Now the Center has released a new study that gives us a deeper understanding of behind-the-scene workings of the corporate citizenship team.

The objective: To capture the current state and identify trends in corporate citizenship structure, strategy and management.

One thing is clear: While many companies haven't set up formal corporate citizenship teams, most do have a formal corporate citizenship strategy in place—albeit with a tendency to be informally managed.

Common objectives for corporate citizenship/CSR teams: Environmental issues, community and local economic development, and employee well-being.

Team makeup: Mostly cross-functional with a marked increase in board involvement, although information at the board level remains low.

Building on the 2008 study, the comparative results illuminate several changes that reflect not just a growing acknowledgment among companies of their corporate social responsibility but a deeper understanding of how genuine CSR can lead to a competitive advantage for their business.

With 190 companies participating, including American Electric Power, Boeing, Campbell Soup Co., Hershey and ProLogis, this Profile of the Practice adds microscopic details to the prior Profile of the Profession by shedding light on the operational and strategic responsibilities of the team members.

Whether you want to work in corporate citizenship or become more involved in CSR at work, use this study not only for its detailed insight but also to gain a valuable overview of job requirements, responsibilities, and your place in the overall company structure.

Highlights (and some observations):

THE GOOD NEWS

There are a few pieces of good news: Many companies are formalizing the corporate citizenship practice as well as increasing participation by senior management and the board. Acknowledgment that employees are a company's primary and crucial stakeholders is gaining ground—and resulting in more proactive training programs, engagement and participation in furthering the goals of corporate citizenship.

What aspects does corporate citizenship cover?

--Community support/Philanthropy: 96%
--Environmental Impact/Sustainability: 74%
--Ethics: 56%
--Workplace Issues & Diversity: 55%

What are the top three goals of your company's corporate citizenship strategy?

--Reputation building: 66%
--Improving employee morale/Retention/New employee recruitment: 59%
--Being a neighbor of choice: 38%
--Brand enhancement: 37%

Employee Training

--Informal training program available to employees: 34%
--No training: 34%
--Training included in new employee training: 33%

Charting a career in CSR and sustainability

Does your company's board have a committee dedicated to overseeing corporate citizenship strategy?

--Yes: 30%
--No: 51%
--I don't know: 11%
--We don't have a governing board: 9%

Terminology: What does your company call corporate citizenship?

--Corporate social responsibility (CSR): 25%
--Corporate Citizenship: 20% (see graph on the right)

THE CHALLENGES

I see several challenges ahead from the study: While senior management involvement in corporate citizenship is on the rise, participation remains optional. Also, departments that seem to form a majority of cross-functional teams don't necessarily represent dedicated CSR professionals. And finally, ties to compensation remain elusive of corporate citizenship-related performance targets.

How does your company manage corporate citizenship across the company?

--Management-level cross-functional team: 37%
--Executive-level corporate citizenship council: 31%
--Communicate cross functionally but don't have a team: 27%
--Informal team of interested employees: 23%

Who works in Corporate Citizenship?

Mostly members of the communication, PR and HR departments with fair representation from marketing, ethics, community involvement, and other departments.

Interestingly, in the BCCCC's Profile of the Profession survey from early 2010, almost 85% of CSR professionals said they don't work out of standalone departments dedicated to corporate social responsibility work. (See graphs below)

What professions offer job opportunities for corporate social responsibility and sustainability job seekers?

Observation: It is clear that CSR professionals continue to be needed most in the departments of communications, PR and HR for maximum impact. Since most companies profess a higher chance of representation from these departments in their corporate citizenship teams than the operational side of the business, the marketing and communication-related functions remain the biggest opportunity for those who want to have a CSR component in their job. Especially in an economy where job opportunities with explicit CSR components remain few and far between—and at very selective employers.

On the flipside, strategic and operational departments like finance, product development and operations remain low on involvement.

How do you manage corporate citizenship?

--Formal corporate citizenship/CSR function: 55%
--Distributed functional responsibility: 38%

How many fulltime staff?

--2 or less: 56%
--3 to 5: 24%
--6 or more: 20%

Compensation: How does corporate citizenship tie in?

More than half of the companies don't tie corporate citizenship-specific performance targets with compensation. Of the roughly 40 percent that do:

--For CEOs, ethics compliance and safety formed the largest components of compensation at 27% followed by community support (18%), environmental sustainability (16%) and diversity (15%).

--For VPs and directors of corporate citizenships, community support led at 34% followed by ethics compliance at 21% and safety at 18%.

I'll end with a note from BCCCC that's both eye opening and a reminder for everyone, regardless of your role or stake in a company's growth, on the critical mass required for successfully embedding corporate social responsibility:

"Getting employees educated and up to speed is one challenge; another is engaging those who are already interested in corporate citizenship. Particularly because of the entrance of the millennial generation into the workforce, these numbers are growing. (The survey found that at 23 percent of respondents' companies, corporate citizenship is managed across the company by an informal team of interested employees.) A major challenge for corporate citizenship leaders is helping these interested employees apply corporate citizenship in their daily jobs."

Join in the discussion and help us put a clearer lens on the CSR profession. Leave a comment, email In Good Company or connect with me @VaultCSR.

Relevant Reading:

BCCCC: Profile of the Practice 2010 goes behind the scenes of corporate citizenship

The CSR Jobs Debate: Where are the Jobs?

5 tips for job seekers in CSR

Filed Under: CSR

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