Top Skills You Need if You Want to Work in Corporate Social Responsibility or Sustainability

Are you looking for a CSR or Sustainability / ESG expert? Do you plan to work in Corporate Social Responsibility or Sustainability? If you answered yes to any of these two questions, we have got you covered. In today’s article we are going to go over the top skills you need if you want to work in CSR or Sustainability, or the top skills you need if you want to stand out as a CSR specialist.

Today’s article is meant to provide answers to the following questions: What skills does someone need if they want to work in CSR? What skills do CSR specialists have? What skills do sustainability experts need? Are there any skills that set aparat great CSR / Sustainability specialists from high performers? What makes a good CSR / Sustainability specialist?

To provide the needed answers to these questions, we are going to combine the skills that are currently needed in the market for our field, as well as our background experience working with people from different: niches, industries and business models. We are not only going to mention them, but also go a little bit more deeper into why these skills are important and how you can make the most of it, in order to further develop your skills and grow. As a bonus, we will also offer some of our best tips on what you can do to improve in that particular area or skill. 

Are soft skills enough in order to be a great CSR / Sustainability Expert? 

While we are great fans and supporters of soft skills, we learned, over time, that they are not enough in order to differentiate. We have learned that in this field, previous experience is also really important when working with businesses and companies that want to scale and make an impact in their: communities, workplace and overall. To better explain, we are going to take an example:

Let’s say you are a great communication and a great listener – while these are very good skills, which are important in any business and especially when interacting with clients, if you have some previous experience in the field, you will already gain a little bit more  advantage.

The advantage comes in not only in the moment when you first interact with your potential client, but also when you prepare your CSR Strategy. Your background experience will come in handy because it will help you be more proactive and you are more likely to be better at anticipating the needs and directions of the client or project with ease. We think that background experience is helpful as it encourages you to get more creative and see more opportunities faster while also remaining focused on the end results. To put it easier, experience saves you time and gives you great ideas –  and we all know how valuable well spent time is. 

Now that we did a little bit of an introduction into what we think makes a great Corporate Social Responsibility or Sustainability Expert, we are going to go over the list we have prepared with, what we think, are the best skills you need as a CSR Professional.

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  1. Strategic Thinking

At the core, we think that strategic thinking equals success. A person who can think strategically, can anticipate if a CSR strategy will be successful or not, and this, from early on. 

Being a strategic thinker is very very important because this saves everyone’s: time, resources, and potential social implications. We cannot stress enough how important strategic thinking is in our field.

Working with someone who is thinking strategically, will help you in many ways, as their main gift is that they are very implicated into what they want to do and their vision. They ask a lot of questions, they second guess, triple check and observe / reflect and all this, before they are ready to do it all over again.

If you work in CSR or Sustainability, you definitely need to be a strategic thinker – this will ensure you are asking the right questions, you are considering all aspects involved and you are ready to challenge yourself and embrace different ideas. 

Strategic thinking also helps you see the bigger picture and it helps you innovate and have a better vision of what you want to do and how that will impact everyone involved. (this is what easily describes, CSR is all about).

Our best practice or tip on how you can do to improve your strategic thinking is to force yourself to ask different questions and see them from different perspectives. This will allow you to be more flexible in your thinking and expand your horizons. 

Another tip we have is to don’t limit your ideas and don’t take only one idea as a great one. Always keep exploring and challenging your ways. Practice this, every time you have a chance and see what happens. 

  1. Communication 

Your Communication skills definitely need to be on point. This means:

  • talking / interacting 
  • listening 
  • emotion control

Now, we do not have a standardized profile of how someone who is a good communicator should be, or how they should act. We think that being a great communicator also has to do with the way that person is and this is very individual, however we do know how effective communication should look like.

When your communication skills are strong, you are also an effective communicator, and this means that you have strong skills in:

  • problem solving
  • strong decision making
  • great response and great productivity
  • you know how to deliver your message: clear and concise communication

Our best tip on what you can do to improve your communication skills is to: gather experience. Talk with people. Talk with business professionals. Get yourself involved in activities that require a lot of interaction. Get out there and practice.

  1. Willing to learn & understand

Working in CSR requires a lot of research. You have to have a lot of patience and you have to be willing to learn – a lot. And always explore new ways of doing things. 

In CSR a lot of it has to do with what you know but also what you are capable of learning – and how well and how fast. This is what makes a CSR or Sustainability Professional stand out. 

We do not think you can force this skill or that you can learn it. We think that if you are really passionate and dedicated about CSR, you will have no problems with this, because it will come naturally to you. So, our best tip for this part is, be really passionate about what you want to do. 

  1. Adapts Easily & Is Passionate

While if the recent events taught us anything, that is how easily things can change from one day to the next and how much do we need to adapt to current events in order to make sure everything will happen in our favor.

As a CSR Professional, you have to do the same. You have to be ready to make a strategy and then at any point in time, change it, if needed. You have to be flexible in your thinking and easily adaptive in your action plan. It is not easy. It is not something that can be done lighty, but it has to be done and someone has to do it.

Being an easy adapter is even more practical if you are passionate about your field. If you know you want to make an impact and if you think you can offer great solutions in times of need and if you have a strong desire to change your ways, then you know that this is for you. 

And our best tip for this is to keep doing what you are doing and always find your passion. If things go south, remember why you started. 

And while you remember, pick yourself up and adapt your ways again. (See, there is a reason why we have put these two together – this is where they belong). 

  1. Business Background

And at last, we strongly believe that having a background in business is a strong differentiator. We think that as a CSR expert or professional it is not quite enough to only know CSR.

You also have to know a little bit of how business works, how your CSR message will play along with the company’s brand, mission and values. How will your CSR campaign affect the design and branding of the company, how will the customers respond to your CSR efforts and how will this impact the overall business?

A CSR expert will also have to look at data: all business metrics, KPIs and reporting and understand the overall picture and what we are trying to achieve. 

All these aspects need to be taken in consideration when creating a CSR strategy or campaign and a pro CSR / Sustainability expert will take all of these factors in consideration when creating the action plan. And that’s definitely a plus. 

What do you think? Do you think these skills are important if you work in CSR? Do you have any other skills that you consider important? Let us know! We would love to hear them.

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