Development Crossing

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability

Essentials for Success as Corporate Citizenship Leaders

A recent LGB Associates report (PDF link) Advancing CSR Without a Corporate Responsibility Officer asks: Do we really need a Corporate Responsibility Officer (CRO)?

The report summarizes the thoughts of the Thought Leader Forum, "a group of senior corporate social responsibility professionals organized by the LBG Research Institute" on the topic.

It also highlights what they consider the essentials for success in a corporate citizenship leader:

  • Be an excellent communicator. Corporate citizenship professionals have to be able to talk to the Board of Directors, the executive team, their peers in other areas of the company, employees at all levels, regulators, elected officials, community and nonprofit leaders—all stakeholders—in appropriate language with a consistent message. That requires the ability to understand the concerns and viewpoints of the different stakeholders and tailor the corporate message accordingly.
  • Be a charismatic, persuasive figure in the corporation. Besides communicating a message, CC practitioners are often called upon to gain cooperation from stakeholders (that includes the CEO!) for important programs to be implemented. That takes more than excellent communication skills. Great leaders exude confidence without arrogance and are able to persuade reluctant stakeholders by educating them and listening to their concerns.
  • Be able to deal with complex situations. Because there are so many stakeholders in a corporation, the leader will often find him- or herself in situations that are difficult or politically charged. Great leaders are able to see different points of view, think on their feet, defuse the landmines and gain cooperation.
  • Be comfortable in the for-profit and nonprofit environments. An understanding of nonprofits—preferably experience in them—is critical to be able to speak their language and work with them effectively.
  • Understand the business and current issues in your industry and the world. In order to understand different internal stakeholders’ points-of-view, you have to really understand the business, what drives revenue, what the risks are, the issues in the industry and world trends and events that impact your industry. Otherwise, you cannot speak the language of the executives and communicate with them effectively. You cannot design a strategic citizenship program that serves your company without knowing what makes the business tick.
  • Understand your communities, their issues and needs. Like with the business, if you do not know what is happening in your communities you cannot be an effective, responsible citizen of those communities.

Enjoy the read! Let us know if you have any thoughts to add on the topic.

Views: 407

Comment by Bob Kohn on September 10, 2013 at 5:30pm

I believe you hit every point spot on.

The only 2 points I would add are...

Where you say CC practitioners are often asked “to gain cooperation from stakeholders (that includes the CEO!) for important programs to be implemented. That takes more than excellent communication skills." Communication here is the key and it has to 'open". It has to flow both down as well as up. Employees need to know they are being listened to and will get a response without ridicule or negative results. There are ways to do this and gain their respect. Most of the time, problems can be corrected or processes made more efficient by having solutions come from the people who do that job function every day.

 The second comment is where you say that "Be able to deal with complex situations" are politically charged is correct but there are also many other forms of 'fires' that occur and risk management becomes a very important role.

My insight comes from smaller businesses that I have run, worked for and knowledge I gained through my BAS in Sustainability Management.

Great article and I believe all medium to large companies need a designated CRO or CSO (because they separate job functions due to the number of employees and department requirements if nothing else). The smaller companies have the owner that wears all these hats, even if none of them are designated as such.

I hope this adds to the article!

Bob Kohn


Comment by Sharad Pant on September 11, 2013 at 4:40am

I agree with all the mentioned points and essentials  corporate social responsibility professionals. But i observed that some companies are using  the services of these professionals solely for their own benefits, There is dare need to consider the suggestions of  CSR professional into account and have to add it into company welfare policy.  

The CSR professional are used for calm down the agitation of affected communities, like because of cement factory the farmers living in the vicinity of factory are losing their livelihood, the ash is going to deposit on their farming land and and its get barren, that's why they can't able to cultivate and produce anything from that. In this situation the company should have to make comprehensive plan to provide alternative livelihood opportunities for the farmers, but in most of the cases its not happened and when the agitation occurs against the company the CSR professionals were used to calm down the situation.  The companies are using CSR professionals services as tool to handle the anger and agitation of the community.


Sharad Pant


Comment by Struan Simpson on September 11, 2013 at 5:12am

It's hard to disagree with the 'essentials' - a bit like motherhood and apple pie. But I think I would re-shape them more to take into account principles as implied in Sharad's comments. I come from a background of advising companies operating in the Niger Delta.


Struan Simpson


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