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How to Learn the Truth About a Company’s Corporate Social Responsibility Commitment

When searching for a job, candidates typically spend time researching a company’s website, their products, their employees and the role they are interested in. These are all important factors to consider. But for many of us, we want to know more about a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitment. Whether you are interviewing for a position on the CSR team or only want to work somewhere that demonstrates a real commitment to CSR, what can you ask or research to really know the truth behind a company’s corporate social responsibility efforts.

Find out how CSR is viewed from the top.

With these questions your goal is to see how corporate social responsibility is viewed by the CEO and the senior leadership team. Is it a priority for them or a check-the-box initiative? Companies that really embrace CSR typically have a senior executive dedicated to, or responsible for, CSR as well as have CSR a priority driven by the CEO. The most successful CSR programs are in some way endorsed by or driven from the top.

Here are a few questions to research or ask:  

1. Is there a CSO (Chief Sustainability Officer)? (Note: If it’s an informational interview, this is appropriate, if it’s an official interview for a CSR job- you should research this in advance).

2. How involved is the CEO or senior leadership team with CSR initiatives and decisions? How much does sustainability and CSR weigh into a CEO or executive teams decisions?

3. How big is the CSR team?

4. Who does the CSR team report into?

5. Is CSR integrated into financial measurement, reporting, goal setting or decision making?

Find out what CSR means to the company. 

With this line of questioning, your goal is to see how CSR is embedded in the company and whether it is done in a silo or as part of the corporate strategy (or somewhere in between). 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 actually are.

Here are a few questions to research or ask:

1. How does the company approach CSR and what type of initiatives are done (is it sustainability? community engagement? cause marketing? philanthropy? nonprofit partnerships?)

2. How has CSR evolved at the company?

3. Is CSR in everyone’s job descriptions?

4. Is there a CSR long term strategy? Is it part of the overall corporate strategy?

5. How do employees get engaged in the CSR work of your company?

Find out how the company treats and engages their employees. 

With this topic your goal is to find out how the company ‘walks the talk’ and supports people within the organization. This includes career growth opportunities, volunteer opportunities and general support. Companies that live their values will have those values shining through in the culture, policies and everyday behaviour. Being a leader in CSR isn’t just how a company treats the community or environment but also how it treats their own employees.

Here are a few questions to research or ask:

1. What kind of professional development opportunities are there?

2. Is there a mentorship program?

3. Are there volunteer days or time off given to volunteer?

4. Are there lunch and learns?

If you are like 64% of Millennials and won’t take a job from a company that doesn’t have strong CSR practices, this list of questions will help you consider and evaluate a company’s social and environmental commitments as you decide where to work.

Note: if you are interviewing for a sustainability or CSR position, some of these questions should be researched before the interview.

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