CSR Requires a Thick Skin

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m on a quest to identify companies that are participating in really unique and innovative Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. But that is easier said than done – mostly because the job itself is so darn demanding.

Most companies in the private sector exist to produce a profit. There are endless conversations about how to minimize expenses, be more operationally efficient, expand and retain customer base, and meet shareholder expectations. These are the typical conversations in the business board room. And then there is the Director of Corporate Responsibility – who has to boldly speak up and say, “We need to invest some of our profits in the community.”

I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. Across the room, there is a collective eye roll.

The questions begin from everyone within the room:

  • Why have we spent all of this time to reconfigure our operations if my department doesn’t get anything in return?
  • Can’t we use that money to give bonuses?
  • What’s the ROI in “giving back?” We really don’t know if our CSR program is working, or making a difference.
  • There are a ton of other things on which we have to focus right now. CSR – and spending our hard-earned money – is not a priority.

It’s not always this harsh, but it can be. The Director of Corporate Responsibility is on the “hot seat” to respond to these questions, to justify that “doing good” leads to higher employee morale and consequently, customers that are better served. And then he or she returns to their office to complete yet another CSR report; to respond to a SVP about why the company cannot sponsor her favorite nonprofit for $10K at an upcoming event; to coordinate the “thank you” bags for an employee volunteer day; and to respond to a nonprofit’s unsolicited request for a grant.

Glamorous? No.

Tough? Challenging? Draining? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Worth it? Absolutely.

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