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Corporate Social Responsibility Jobs

What does Corporate Social Responsibility mean in today’s workplace? 

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an overarching term that companies use to describe a variety of activities related to its social or environmental efforts. CSR is also commonly referred to as Sustainability, Corporate Impact, Corporate Citizenship or just Corporate Responsibility. To some companies, CSR refer to their sustainability (read: environmental) efforts, to others it’s their investment in the community (read: giving grant money), their marketing support of causes, their employee volunteerism or wellness program or the management of their corporate foundation. And sometimes it’s a combination.

Evolution of CSR

For the most part, CSR has evolved from traditional generic “giving” to a more strategic focus of effort related to business objectives. Companies have become more strategic in their use of “CSR” aligning with causes and initiatives that are core to their brand. For example FedEx supports disaster and emergency relief as part of it’s community programs and as a logistics and transportation company this brand alignment makes complete sense. Bell, has taken on mental health with a campaign tagline “Let’s Talk” aligning with their core as a communications company. Other companies like Tiffany’s focus on issues related to their sustainability of the business – responsible sourcing and preserving landscapes- and Coca Cola prioritizes water as it is the main ingredient of their product.

Beyond each company focusing on different issues, companies are also at different stages of the “CSR” evolutionary spectrum. Although most large companies have moved beyond the first phase of the spectrum- ‘chequebook’ philanthropy (giving away cash to many charities) some are still in it for the PR only (typically CSR is housed under marketing), while others have embedded CSR in all jobs (think Patagonia). There are some who believe one day we won’t even call it “CSR”, it’s just going to be how business is done if they want to survive and thrive into the long-term. Note- granting money and investing in the community is a common CSR approach, but what’s changed over the years is the strategy behind the giving to align with business objectives.

Career Opportunities

The range of career opportunities in CSR reflects how different companies define their activities and where they are in the spectrum of CSR. Some companies will have a distinct corporate social responsibility team and in others it may be embedded into everyone’s job or not at all. Despite the variety, almost all large corporations have set up some form of CSR department to manage their efforts (and by departments this could mean 1 or 2 people). Often what varies is the level of seniority the most senior CSR professional has- ie- whether they are part of the executive team. The hierarchy can be an indicator to determine how the company views CSR internally.

 

Originally published in our Insider’s Guide to Meaningful Jobs White Paper

 

Corporate Social Responsibility Jobs:

Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), Vice President Environment – An executive responsible for the strategic direction and implementation of their sustainability efforts including but not limited to supply chain, waste, product lifecycle and the environment.

Meet Walter Kraus.

Walter Kraus. VP, Environment & Corporate Sustainability. Weston Foods.

Meet Walter Kraus, VP Environment, Corporate Sustainability at Weston Foods

Chief Philanthropy Officer : Similar to the CSO, the CPO is a member of the executive team, often reporting to the CEO. The CPO provides vision and strategic direction to create the plan for the giving program related to community investment.

Read about why Salesforce has a new Chief Philanthropy Officer

Executive Director of Corporate Foundation: Responsible for the direction and activities of the company’s corporate foundation.

Meet Mike Bartlett.

Mike Bartlett. Senior Director, Corporate Responsibility, MLSE & Executive Director, MLSE Foundation

Director of Corporate Responsibility, Director Community Engagement, Director Community Investment: Someone who oversees the internal and external programs of a company. In some cases this is the highest sustainability position within a company.

Meet Lisa Gibbs

Lisa Gibbs. Director, Community Investment. Shoppers Drug Mart

Meet Frances Edmonds, Head of Sustainability at HP Canada  (note- she was Director at the time of our interview)

One of the Coolest Green Jobs. Our Interview with Frances Edmonds, the Director of Environmental Programs at HP Canada.

Manager of Corporate Responsibility:  

Meet Jeremiah Brenner

Jeremiah Brenner. Manager of Corporate Responsibility. LoyaltyOne.

Meet Klaudia Watts

Klaudia Watts. Corporate Responsibility Manager. PwC.

Meet Corey Evans.

Corey Evans. Manager, Sponsorship, Community Investment & Experiential Marketing. WestJet

 

Communications Advisor, Sustainability Associate: 

Meet Shane O’Connor

Shane O’Connor, Communications Advisor, FedEx Global Citizenship

Questions you can ask

Now that you have an understanding of the type of jobs out there, that companies are at different stages and prioritize it differently within their companies you can be better equipped in your search and interviews.
To discover more about CSR in an informational interview ask questions such as is their anyone responsible for ‘CSR’ on the leadership team? What is their approach to corporate responsibility or community? Is CSR tied to a business objective? Is there anyone responsible for reporting?
Even if on the outside it appears there’s limited “CSR”, sometimes you will learn that the company doesn’t do a good job of communicating their work or perhaps doesn’t even classify it as CSR. And in other cases what you may find is that companies appear to be doing more than they are.
What questions have you used to learn more about CSR at a company? Let us know in the comments below.
Did you learn something in this article? Do you know anyone who aspires to be a CSO or CPO- share this article with them.
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