CSR in Development
So what does a person in Corporate Social Responsibility do?
It’s a good question that obviously must be answered before you can know if this job is for you. At its most cynical a person who works in CSR can be considered a public relations employee, who is taking actions on the environment and on other social problems in order to burnish the credentials of the company they work for. In this scenario, the people that do CSR work talk a lot but do very little.
And naturally, for some companies that is exactly what these people do. It isn’t so much about what they actually achieve as what they appear to achieve. But them, often in politics it’s the same thing –for as somebody once said, “Politics is the business of appearances.”
And besides, not all businesses are quite that cynical. There are a lot of business leaders who take their roles as guardians for society far more seriously, with many working much more closely in recent years with governments (and being far more critical of what they see as unethical behavior in government).
What’s more, there is a definite shift in the idea that being socially responsible is necessarily bad for businesses. Instead, many businesses are now seeing working in a positive way for – say – the environment as a win win situation, where both they and society as a whole benefits.
So what does that mean?
The trick, then, would seem to be that you need to know what you want from the position and then to find a company that exemplifies that way of doing business. If you’re interested in the public relation side of thing, then you can start working with most companies. If you actually want to make a difference, however, then you’re going to need to be more selective in what company you’re going to want to apply to.
This means that you’re going to have to be not just somebody interested in doing corporate social responsibility, but also somebody who can find out when a company is serious about this kind of thing and when they’re just paying lip service.
The best way to do that is to look at the actual responses non-governmental organizations have to the social responsibility work that different companies have taken. What’s more, you’ll want to take a very careful look at the people at the top of an organization so that you can’t just know what they’re doing now but what they’re planning to do in the future as well. For though the people at the top can’t always change the corporate culture at the organization that they work at, they’re the people who are the most likely to be able to – particularly if there are people (like you) who are willing to help them.
Do note, if you want to do a job like this you can’t expect to make a difference on day one. After all, the idea that corporations should take social responsibility is still quite new in some sectors and within some companies. That means that it will take time to help change the culture. That can be a long-term process.
Of course, if you do manage to do something like that, it will be just as difficult for people to change it back when they replace you as it did for you to nudge it over to begin with. So at least there is that to support your thinking.
There will be a lot of change an upheaval in the years to come, as companies try to shoulder not just the expectations from their shareholders but also the expectations from a customer base who aren’t just about getting the products they want, but also about having things in their households that are responsibly produced and have as small an impact on the environment as is feasible.
If you want to be part of that upheaval and help form the future of what it means for corporations to be responsible, then this is the job for you. Just don’t expect it to be easy, for – as already said – in many cases the corporate culture has not yet been formed to make it easy for you to do this kind of thing.
But then, as they say, the things worth doing are rarely easy. So if you’re switching careers, then definitely consider switching over to a CSR job.