It's one thing to be environmentally conscious. It's another to encompass sustainability as a good business practice. And yet another to demand that employers discuss their corporate citizenship as part of the interview process and make it a part of your job search, especially considering the current job market.
As more business schools start addressing sustainability and corporate responsibility (some recent examples include Marlboro College and MIT's Sloan School of Management), ethical business practices have become a recurring theme at conferences, regardless of the original premise. Rewind a few days to the Goldman Sachs debacle, and the relevance of these discussions get further catapulted. Amidst this scenario then, are jobseekers or "job changers" actively looking to work for an employer that makes corporate responsibility an inherent part of their company culture? And if they are, what factors help them make that decision?
At a panel discussion yesterday organized by New York University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS), with CEO of strategy consulting firm Natural Logic Gil Friend, and Don Carli, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Communication, the issue on hand was making sustainable media choices, i.e., print or digital. Toward the end of a revelatory discussion, which touched upon several concepts including life cycle analysis, input-output cycles, the choice between local and global sourcing, and Wal-mart's Sustainability Consortium, I sat down with Don to discuss how this concern might play out in the context of a jobseeker.
Calling this the difference between "sufficiency" and "efficiency," he said, "The biggest difference is between following the mantra of 'make money, make money, make more money' and knowing how much is sufficient for you to be efficient." In a capitalist society though, how realistic is this approach and, perhaps, more importantly, are jobseekers and graduates even asking these questions? "Graduates and job candidates are asking about CSR and sustainability. They are weighing their options and including corporate responsibility in their final decision. The scale of traditional monetary and non-monetary requirements is shifting," he said, alluding to the traditional criteria of diversity initiatives, work/life balance and work culture. Finally, he added, it is how much is enough.
Don's response hits to the core of the lack of trust that companies, especially the finance industry, are facing in the marketplace today. For me, it was déjà vu. At a separate event last week, accounting firm Ernst & Young's CEO James Turley started his keynote with the following statement, "For me, this is a game-changing time for corporate responsibility and businesses…our professions operate on trust."
This observation continues to hit home as I conduct an inter-generational study on the increasing focus on CSR in their career paths of six recent graduates (graduated from business school within the last year). These graduates, who represent a diversity of professional experience and industries—and ages--unanimously admit that a company's commitment to CSR is a top priority for them. If you're thinking they're being too idealistic, think again. As they go through their job search, these graduates are aware of reality: There remains a wide disconnect between companies and colleges regarding the importance of CSR as a skill set. Despite this, they are continuing to plug ahead. In the coming days, stay tuned as we trace their struggles, their passion for CSR and whether their business schools did a good job addressing corporate citizenship in their curricula.
Are these future leaders and entrepreneurs way off base? As a manager or a CEO, are you increasingly besieged by talk of corporate responsibility, ethical misconduct and giving back to the community? Leave a comment or connect with me on Twitter @VaultCSR, and let's make this a discussion.
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