What We Learned As Corporate Social Responsibility Specialists – CSR Experts Working In Business

In Today’s Article we are going to share with you some learnings that we have gathered along the way as Corporate Social Responsibility Specialists working with businesses and brands on developing CSR initiatives and an ongoing strategy. In one of our previous articles, we discussed some set of skills that we consider important when working as CSR professionals or Sustainability experts. If that article is of interest to you, feel free to read more about it here.  

For this article, we are going to share some of our learnings that we have gathered for the past 6 years. These learnings include: different points of views and experiences that we hope will be useful to anyone who is currently working in the CSR space or is interested in this field. 

Background is not as important as the willingness to learn. 

Attitude is almost everything. A person can have a lot of background experience, come from prestigious universities or well established businesses yet they might still not be as qualified as someone who is really passionate about doing something. We have seen that it is very hard to keep a job In the corporate social responsibility or sustainability space, if there is a lack of determination or a vision that does not include long term thinking and different perspectives. 

We consider a great fit someone who wants to continuously learn and is excited about experimentation. While we always say that CSR is something that is strategic for businesses, there is a lot of creativity that goes into developing ideas, processes and next steps for a very well put together action plan. 

Knowledge is power but you will be faced with situations where you do not have all the answers. 

When approached with a situation where you do not know the answer for, it is ok to say that you do not know the full correct answer and that you might need some time to do more research.  As someone who considers themselves knowledgeable, this was something that was very hard for me to accept at first. 

One of the main reasons I struggled with admitting that I did not know something was because I thought that that made me less professional – when in fact it is the opposite. It is acceptable to not have the full answers for everything and it is ok to admit that you do not know something. 

For example, in a client call we were discussing the sustainability aspects of an upcoming launch of a beauty product and if the container was going to be fully recyclable. There was one component from the mechanism of the product that was not fully recyclable because we did not find a recycle alternative in the market – at that moment, there was not one. We did not know if we could find something else that could work to advise the client upon and that was a situation where it was ok to admit that we need more time for research. 

There are so many things that are changing from one day to another – and this is not happening just in the corporate social responsibility world. No one expects us to have all the answers. The solution comes from doing work and trying to get to a solution. 

You will fail but patience will be the key to your next opportunity. 

You can work for months on the same project, same initiative with the same team and then at the last minute, a few days away from launching, something happens and the plan that you and the team was working on becomes postponed. And that is ok. Situations where work is delayed happen. Managers will change their mind. As you go along, the project will change. 

You can start with one idea and action plans for a project and then adapt it and change it half way there. These situations happen frequently because as you go along, you are getting more feedback, more ideas and the project is growing. If you expect that you will have a steady ride from start to finish we are here to tell you that this scenario happening is very unlikely.  

The first draft is mainly the starting point and then the more people you get involved with, the more opportunities arise for the project to change. Think of it this way: – you propose an idea, you are working with 3 other people and out of all these three people, all of them have at least three different ideas of how to approach this. Now it is the time to be flexible and embrace change – in all of its forms. 

Not everyone will be on the same page as you.

We encourage you to embrace change. Embrace ideas and be flexible. In this space, there are many parts moving and changing from one day to another. As a CSR professional, you need to be ok with your ideas not always making the front page – even if you contribute to them. The vision for a CSR expert needs to be tailored around the success of the project not around personal accomplishments. It does not matter who came up with what idea, what matters is the end vision and constant progress of each strategy. 

Be prepared to get asked a lot of questions.

If you are getting a lot of questions, it means that you are doing something right. In the CSR space, the more questions you get, the more likely you are to be heading the direction of progress. Questions in the sustainability and corporate social responsibility field means that you are getting one step closer to finding the best alternative. For example:

  • “what if we use this material instead of this?”
  • “can we switch to a more sustainable option?”
  • “if we choose x – will it have a lower impact on y than z?”

These types of questions are essential when setting up a sustainability strategy or a CSR business strategy. If these questions are not arising, there is a high chance that you might not be looking at the whole picture.

Bottom line is – be prepared to get asked a lot of questions and be comfortable about it. 

We hope you enjoyed today’s article. Feel free to check out other resources that we have on this website and ask us any questions you might have. Always happy to help!

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