Readers Respond: The Evolution of CSR & What Might Be Next

by Aman Singh Das | July 22, 2010

  • My Vault

Our recent series on Job Hunting in CSR clearly resonated with many.Within hours of posting, the Twitter-sphere was humming with activity andparallel conversations began on several LinkedIn groups. We also received manyreader comments on Vault's CSR Blog: from a diverse group ofindividuals, including consultants, leadership coaches, thought leaders oncorporate citizenship, CSR professionals as well as graduate students.

Theemergence of CSR…

Reader Dave Harrhy (@dharrhy) discussed the emergence of CSR andsustainability as a key business factor in today's market, calling it a"mixed blessing" for these graduates. "It is fascinating towatch the process of CSR and sustainability emerges as a bona fide factor forbusiness in our time. Your four subjects have the mixed blessing of being onthe bleeding edge of a wave that quite frankly a lot of companies do notrealize is upon them," he wrote.

Pursuinga career in CSR doesn't necessary equate with finding the right job incorporate responsibility and sustainability in today's recruitment marketplace.

Reader John Friedman (@JohnFriedman) chose to focus on the financialcollapse. He argued that the collapse wasn’t due to the actions of "a fewunethical people like Bernie Madoff," but because of the "attempt todrive short-term shareholder value (over sustainable profits) by venerablecompanies." In other words, he continued, "the BEST and the BRIGHTESTwere responsible." And this, he wrote, is what is being taught today infar too many business schools and MBA programs.

…itsevolution…

A few also discussed the evolution of CSR.According to one reader, "The emergence of understanding of environmentaland social issues as subjects of importance has accelerated with the use of theInternet and the demands for transparency that that brings. This has reallyemerged in the last 12-15 years, and, thus far companies think they can useexisting resources to cobble something together...at times this can bebrilliant, often it is PR with no real strategic focus."

Lavinia Weissman (@WorkEcology)--a leadership coach who focuses onsustainability--also weighed in, pointing out that the current HR workforcedoesn’t necessarily have the background to lead and hire graduates like AshleyJablow and Geet Singh. She wrote, "Currently, most hiring managers lackthe education and background to lead and mentor these mature and experiencedgraduates for success. What changes everything is a demand from the board and directorstoward educated leadership [so that they] learn on their feet and hire MBAgraduates who are increasingly more qualified experts in sustainability andCSR."

"Let's hope more companies invest in embeddingsustainability into their company culture and lead that change through the kindof mentoring and leadership work I teach," she ended.

Another reader expressed cheer at the emergingconsciousness among students. He wrote, "I am encouraged by the fact thatthe majority of MBA students express that building durable sustainable valuemust be part of the curriculum, and that they also report desire to work forcompanies that have that as a core value. We're also seeing CSR beingintegrated into MBA and business programs." He chose to end on aspeculative note, wondering whether "growing up in a less self-centereddecade and having witnessed firsthand the consequences of short-sightedthinking had created a new generation of business leaders?"

…and itsfuture

We also heard from a student in Barcelona, Spain (@juanvillamayor)who described his own journey toward CSR. Best expressed in his words:

"I live in Spain where I work for amultinational food company as an international project manager. I completed anMBA a few years back, with no reference to corporate social responsibilitywhatsoever. Everything revolved around the economic bottom line. The long rundid not exist; everything was happening fast, here and now. Why care about thelong run? I did miss the CSR approach.

But everything has changed now after the scandalsof the last few years. The crisis we are living in—especially in Spain andother European countries—is caused by the lack of corporate responsibilitytoward the community. That is why I decided to give my career a new orientationand complete my master's degree in sustainability and CSR, while working at thesame time. I have decided to switch over to CSR in 2011, no matter how big therisk is.

One of the possibilities I have is to push for aCSR position in my company. Currently our CSR activities are coordinated fromthe marketing department (!). But I am ready for other options, one of thembeing a CSR consultant."

These comments serve as real, relevant and informedperspectives from people who represent a wide spectrum of industries andprofessions. As corporate responsibility grows in scope across companies, theseinsights become valuable not only for graduating entrepreneurs and job seekers,but for any professional who considers himself/herself as an informedcareerist.

I'll leave you with a note of advice from Harrhy: Thechallenge for your panel is to ensure that all of their skills sets are knownand further on how those skills can move the agenda forward for a company'sCSR. Those are the personal levers that can still open doors. A lot of companies still cannotdefine CSR for themselves, they don't know what they don't know—and so havingthe recruitment conversation with them is futile if CSR is the only song beingsung."

Corporate America, the ball just may be in yourcourt.

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Read the complete interviews:

Ashley Jablow: Leveraging Business School to Shift from NonprofitFundraising to CSR

Geet Singh: "Green and Sustainable in Orange County? No, Not Really!"

Whit Tice: "I want to be a consultant so I can effect as much change as Ican in a positive manner"

Filed Under: CSR

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