PwC's CSR Leader: "I had to accept that some people weren't going to come to the table or invest in this"

by Aman Singh Das | August 04, 2010

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In 2007,Shannon Schuyler, an executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) wrote a white paperfor the company's leadership emphasizing that PwC needed someone to overseetheir CR efforts and give them direction. Schuyler also candidly pointed outthat while the accounting giant had done some impressive things for both theirpeople and the community, their efforts weren't necessarily focused. And theywere notably absent in the environmental field.

Threemonths later, the job was hers. Today, as PwC's Corporate ResponsibilityLeader, she leads a seven-member department that focuses full time onspearheading the firm's CR efforts. Additionally, her team works with people inthe field within 19 markets and 80 offices, who comprise of diversity leaders,HR, and administrative heads. They also work with geographic marketing teams,who take care of local community outreach.

We satdown for a conversation, which covered PwC's CR mission, how her team is helpingrebuild and redefine the company's strategic focus, as well as her personaljourney which has managed to connect her experience in executive recruitmentwith a passion for youth education.

FromRecruitment to Corporate Responsibility

ShannonSchuyler is the Corporate Responsibility leader at consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.She is responsible for the company's CSR programs and initiatives built aroundPwC?s four CR pillars: Marketplace, Community, People, and Environment.

Istarted with what was topmost on my mind: Why the transition from recruitmentto corporate responsibility? "When we look at corporate responsibility,one of the cornerstones of it is the marketplace dimension, which focuses onour ethical conduct and governance toward the market and our clients.Especially after the last couple of years of turmoil that the financialservices industry has seen, it has become even more important to ensure thatresponsibility is at the forefront of not just what company leadership issaying, but also what every single employee believes," she said. As Schuyler further reasoned, because CR had todo with employee belief and culture, it would eventually rest on her as well—andto catalyze that, she'd rather be the one in charge.

Sheadded, "I think that organizations, especially in the economic sense, havetaken a few steps back lately. This is a combination of ensuring that, not onlyare you doing the right thing from a social and environmental perspective, butthat you're truly reinforcing those actions from a business perspective toregain trust within the industry, and of course, with clients and other stakeholdersin the marketplace."

Themessage for her was clear: "We've definitely seen that companies gofurther if they're a good corporate citizen and founded on general businessethics."

Jobs in CSR

Theunderlining theme that emerged from our recent Job hunting in CSR series pointed at a distinctdisconnect between recruitment needs and student demand for responsiblebusiness practices. I asked Schuyler whether the firm was committed enough toembedding a responsible culture to start discussing their initiatives at the pre-hirestage.

"Igo to campuses several times a year to talk to freshman business schoolstudents at NYU and the University of Michigan, as examples, about corporateresponsibility. It's not necessarily about the people that we've hired or arehiring, but a much broader explanation of what PwC expects—and even morebroadly, that this is what businesses across the board are expecting. We arealso working with colleges to figure out how to embed CR in the accounting andgeneral business curricula, so that students truly understand that it's goingto be a part of their job, no matter where they go."

Businessschool vs. undergraduate

Schuyleralso pointed out a distinction between the conversations happening at the undergraduatelevel and the business school level. At the undergrad sophomore stage, shesaid, the focus was on active engagement from the get go. PwC initiatesoutreach by holding events to address student questions and by inviting them toevents that are "specifically focused around volunteering andsustainability in the broadest context and get them engaged from thebeginning."

On MBA campuses,the firm fine tunes its strategy to be more career-centric. "They are morefocused on environmental sustainability and what that looks like and how thattranslates into different careers for them, based on their background,"she said. Regular readers of this space will remember Boston University MBA graduate Ashley Jablow'sinterview, where she emphasized that it was conversations with faculty, peers,and company officials that helped define her focus toward corporateresponsibility.

For PwCand Schuyler, candidates like Jablow present a necessary shift in approach fromholistic to strategic. "They get to make connections between ethicalbehavior, what an organization is doing and how they fit in with allthis," she said.

Finally,she reiterated, "The focus on doing good in a holistic sense is a lotstronger at that undergraduate level, while MBA students are looking at it in amore strategic context, i.e., how they can get involved in environmentalsustainability and what that might look like for them considering the previousexperience they've had."

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Next:How PwC is changing the rules on leadership development training andencouraging corporate citizenship by focusing on employee engagement and executiveinvolvement

As always, please continue to participate in the discussions by emailing In Good Company, leaving a comment or connecting on Twitter @VaultCSR!

Filed Under: CSR

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