Awareness of corporate responsibility among the general public is growing in the country. Corporates are setting up CSR wings and recruiting workforce to drive the CSR projects. Suresh Pramar says CSR “profession” is still a relatively new one in India and it has enough space for career option.
By Suresh Kr Pramar
A reader has asked me whether Corporate Social Responsibility can grow as a career option for young management graduates. I believe that it can and a very satisfying one. With the growing job opportunities in CSR and related fields, in India Corporate Social Responsibility is developing career option that is growing at an increasingly fast pace. It has substantial and diverse career opportunities. With the need for business to develop a responsible face and ensure sustainable development companies are looking for qualified and knowledgeable personnel who can effectively handle their CSR Agenda.
A common refrain from HR Departments has been that there are very few qualified and experienced persons available in the field. As such business, in keeping with the worldwide trend and eager to adopt and implement meaningful CSR programmes, are unable to secure the necessary staff. A survey by Partners in Change, a few years ago, had revealed that only 11 percent of those responsible for the CSR Agenda in companies had any training in CSR
The post liberalized and globalised Indian economy is witnessing shrinking role of state and growing role of Corporate and Business in overall development of country. Indians feel that the business sector must play a wider and more expansive societal role. In addition to providing good quality products at reasonable prices, companies should strive to make their operations environmentally sound, adhere to high labour standards, reduce human rights abuses and mitigate poverty.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), ethics and sustainability are of growing concern to businesses locally, nationally and internationally and their importance to the global economy is set to increase. CSR is a powerful way of making sustainable competitive profits and achieving lasting value for the shareholders as well as for stakeholders. It is a meaningful effort to give back to society some of the surplus profits a corporation makes.
Given the crores that are made by business by way of profits across the world, money spent on CSR is still a drop in the ocean. Till very recently CSR was viewed as philanthropic activity taken up only when the firms were in jeopardy. But it is now viewed to be inclusive, broad and diverse. CSR is now viewed as integral part of business strategy to minimize the business risks linked to uncertainty.
CSR is now a well-known expression for what, in the past, has been a collection of different and yet related terms: corporate philanthropy, corporate citizenship, business ethics, stake holding, community involvement, corporate responsibility, socially responsible investment, sustainability, triple-bottom line, corporate accountability and corporate social performance. CSR goes beyond the occasional community service action, as it is a corporate philosophy that drives strategic decision-making, partner selection, hiring practices and, ultimately, brand development.
The CSR “profession” is still a relatively new one. There is no such thing as a typical career path in CSR and there is no single professional body at present that represents the needs and interests of all those working in the field. This is due to the diverse disciplines involved and also the complexity of the roles and responsibilities of a CSR practitioner. The process of establishing and responding to the CSR agenda within an organization will require specialists with specific CSR competencies. Positions in CSR differ widely from one industry to another – and even from one company to another within an industry.
Entry salaries vary as much as career paths and could vary from the lower end working for a CSR non-profit to a better remunerated position in the legal department of a corporation. Between these extremes are corporate positions and those with international institutions such as the World Bank and the UN. The demand for people with an interest or experience in CSR is growing at a fast pace as communications improve and a demand for increased transparency and accountability in the corporate sector increases
There are no prerequisite qualifications to enter in this field. Because the field is relatively new, direct experience in the sector is less important. Rather, transferable skills and knowledge is valued. For example, a law degree might be necessary for certain human rights positions, or a scientific degree or background to work in environmental CSR.
In addition to content knowledge, it is important to demonstrate a long-term interest in the subject and to be conversant on the current CSR debates. The CSR community is still relatively small, and it is much easier to network and to become familiar with current issues than in more established fields. Professional courses like Master of Social Works (MSW), MBA in rural development and Post Graduate Diploma in Rural development offered by different universities and reputed institution may be right option for career in CSR.
Along with increasing interest in and development of CSR there are some challenges of the profession. Because it is a new and developing field people have tried downplay its importance and labeled it a ‘trend’ which may go out of fashion. There is much work to be done to make the CSR field itself more rigorous, to find ways to gather qualitative and quantitative information more efficiently and easily and make standards more uniform and accepted in specific sectors. Despite these challenges a momentum behind the CSR ‘movement’ has been created, which would be hard to reverse and people with CSR-related skills and experience are likely to be increasingly sought after.
Skills or competencies required for a CSR role?
This is hard to clarify due to the diverse roles and range of disciplines involved. Though the major skills required for successful CSR Professional are
Business skills including building insight, communication skills, decision making, commercial awareness, IT, innovation, strategic awareness, leadership, handling complexity and problem solving
People skills including adaptability and empathy, developing others, influencing without power, open minded, integrity, political awareness, self-development and learning, building partnerships, team working and questioning “business as usual”
Technical skills including technical expertise, understanding impacts, stakeholder dialogue, internal consultancy, selling the business case, understanding human rights and understanding sustainability.
(Suresh Kr Pramar, Trainer, Writer, CSR Consultant and the Executive Director, Centre for Training & Research in Responsible Business is a veteran journalist)