Book Review: A Guide for Corporate Responsibility managers

Timothy J Mohin, who describes himself as a ‘tree hugger’ has brilliantly profiled the role of an active CSR Manager, in his book ‘Changing Business from the Inside Out: A Treehugger’ says Suresh Kr Pramar.

By Suresh Kr Pramar

With India Inc becoming increasingly convinced about the business case for Corporate Social Responsibility the demand for CSR Managers is increasing. Many of the larger industrial groups, with units in different parts of the country, and abroad, are steadily expanding their CSR Staff. Companies like the Tata, Jindals, Vedanta and others have created well staffed CSR Departments to implement their community investment programmes.

While the demand for staff has grown the problems of finding the right staff is growing increasingly important and difficult. Surveys have indicated that most of the staff presently in place have little knowledge about the responsibilities of their positions. In most cases CSR is staffed from within the company, this is particularly so in the case of Public Sector units. Private sector companies look for the required staff from outside the business  largely from school of social work.

Unlike in the West India does not have any well established academic training programmes for potential CSR Managers. Most CSR Managers learn about CSR responsibility in-house on the job. B-Schools also do not have a dedicated full time programme for CSR Most of the learning programmes offered are short time courses tagged with the main programme.

Aspiring CSR Managers have few avenues to get the training they require to man available positions in the Corporate Sector with the required knowledge or skills. While some of the companies depute their staff to attend workshops or seminars on CSR many others are reluctant to do so on the plea that such trainings were a waste of money and a drain on the CSR projects run by the company.

Many CSR Managers complain that the HR Department in their organizations does not readily nominate them for workshops since they are not in tune with the requirements and responsibilities of the CSR department. Most HR Managements are still to wake up to their role of promoters of CSR within their organization.

While more and more business houses in India are adopting CSR and undertaking programmes for the community a majority are still looking at CSR more as charity/philanthropy. They largely restrict their CSR activities to projects and programmes which have PR potentials. Most of these companies feel that CSR is nothing more than spending money on CSR projects and securing PR options.

CSR is more than just money spent. The responsibilities of a CSR Manager are wide and cover the entire gambit of activities within the organization. Timothy J Mohin, who describes himself as a ‘tree hugger’ has brilliantly profiled the role of an active CSR Manager. In his book ‘Changing Business from the Inside Out: A Treehugger’s Guide to Working in Corporations’  he says that an active CSR Manager can accomplish more for the planet and society by serving as a voice of responsibility within the corporation.” The CR Practitioner has an essential role in bringing ethical and sustainable value to the C Suite and making sure that they are accomplished”.

The book offers the much required perspective and guide useful both to one aspiring for a career in CSR as also the more experienced manager trying to put together  A CSR programme. For aspiring CSR Managers in India who are interested in using the power of business to change the world for the better this is a must read book. Written by one who has been in the front lines of corporate change making it is a user’s guide and a constructive toolkit for successfully doing good while doing well.

Mohin offers advice to people committed to responsible business. He lists five very useful tips for CSR Practitioners:

Tip No. One: CSR Practitioners should acquire essential skills. The CSR job has a very broad scope of responsibility with almost zero authority to determine success. Success of CSR manager depends on how successfully he or she can influence other business managers to be successful they are required to be flexible and curious, be good communicator and be passionate for the cause.  According to Mohin, a CSR Manager must be the conscience for his company. He or she should be practical, patient and learn to be  “gentle, supple, flexible, pliable, or yielding” while at the same time “manipulating the opponent’s force against himself rather than confronting it with one’s own force.”

Tip No. Two: CSR Managers should learn to run a disciplined programme. Identifying the important issues, as opposed to the merely interesting, is the essential starting point for an effective program. Building management systems around these issues – with clear goals, defined owners, and key performance indicators – is the foundation of a successful corporate responsibility programme.

Tip No. Three: CSR Managers must master a wide range of skills and knowledge  Corporate responsibility leaders need to understand issues ranging from environment, ethics, diversity,  human rights, governance, compensation, supply chain and more.

Tip No. Four: Know your stakeholders: CSR Managers should know their stakeholders. They need to understand their needs and work to fulfill them is essential for business success. In corporate responsibility, identifying “customers” – or “stakeholders” – can be tricky. Outside the company, socially responsible investors, non-profit groups and activists, the local community, customers, competitors and the media are key stakeholders. Equally important are the stakeholders inside the company who include the Board of Directors, the CEO and his/her executive team, the leaders of key business groups and the employee population as a whole.

Tip No. Five: CSR Managers Align their profession to their passion: Getting a job in corporate responsibility can be tough but it is a rapidly growing field which can accommodate people with a wide range of backgrounds. One can work on responsibility issues from any job/position. While the formal corporate responsibility department mainly tells the story, it’s the “mainstream” roles that make the story. Regardless of whether one works in the corporate responsibility department or works for good from another role, the secret to career satisfaction is to match your profession to your passion. When you work for your cause, it’s not really work.

Timothy MohinTimothy Mohin, is currently director of corporate responsibility at chip-maker AM. He is responsible for the company’s overall corporate responsibility strategy, performance and communications. He previously worked on social-responsibility issues at Apple and Intel.

Changing Business from Inside Out:

A Treehugger’s Guide to Working in Corporations,

Timothy J Mohin, Greenleaf Publications, 262pp,2012

(Suresh Kr Pramar, Trainer, Writer,  CSR Consultant and the Executive Director, Centre for Training & Research in Responsible Business is a veteran journalist presently actively involved in promoting CSR through his publication CRBiz and by conducting workshop on Corporate Social Responsibility. He can be reached at, Mobile No: 09213133042/9899305950)



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