CSR practitioners must depend upon influence, not directives.
By Susan Arnot Heaney
Corporate Responsibility (CR), or whatever name you choose, has been recognized as a practice for less than a decade – for early practitioners like me, it has been like learning to drive in the middle of the Indy 500.
However, despite evolutions and iterations, the core imperatives remain unchanged: to focus on profit, people, planet and doing well without sacrificing doing good.
Since CR is the new kid on the block, and we are supposed to be the “good guys” of business, some of the trends uncovered in the biennial CR and Sustainability Salary Survey, produced by Acre, Carnstone & Flag in the U.K. [Respondents were 60 percent U.K., 15 percent Europe, 12 percent North America, 13 percent rest of the world] are a bit surprising and even dismaying.
In fact, the survey suggests that even when building a new practice from scratch, old patterns continue to persist.
CSR Professionals: What We Do
In assessing CR roles and responsibilities, the survey focused on which tasks represented the greatest investment of a practitioner’s time, thereby making time the value metric, not impact or priority. Top five this year were:
- Strategy Development and Implementation
- Reporting/Performance Measurement (the new EU directive will keep this hot!)
- Environment (which I presume means environmental management)
- Stakeholder Engagement
Seems pretty straightforward.
Included in the top five for 2012 but missing for 2014 were Community Investment and Carbon/Energy Management – both key underpinnings of CR. Have these two dropped in ranking due to a shift in priorities or the result of more efficient practices (therefore, less time spent)? Or have the responsibilities transferred to other functions? The survey does not disclose the cause, but the effect is reflective of the evolution of CR.
How Do We Do It
We all know that CR is a field whose practitioners must depend upon influence, not directives, and the core competencies reported in the survey reflect this reality. Highest ranked competency, for example, is Engaging with Stakeholders, followed by:
3. Plan/Develop Strategy
4. Measure/Report Impact
5. Project Management
Did you notice that “Stakeholder Engagement” is a top role AND core competency? It is what we do AND how we do it. In other words, CR professionals succeed the Dale Carnegie way: making friends and influencing people.
Who's Doing the Work
It is a good thing CR practitioners are good at influence and engagement, because 45 percent report having no staff (been there, done that); a third have one to three people on the team; and 15 percent have teams of four to eight. A mere six percent have nine or more people. Embedded in the reality of this small team structure is the potential lack of opportunity for CR professionals to manage direct reports.
While staff is minimal, management support of CR appears to be strong – maybe a result of all that emphasis on stakeholder engagement! In both 2012 and 2014, nearly 60 percent of respondents reported high/very high engagement of executive management, and only seven percent reported low/very low.
Good news, but “engagement” can mean many things. How rarely does executive engagement translate into game changing commitments like those of Unilever and CVS? And even 60 percent means four of 10 executive management teams are not on board with CR.
We have far to go.
Show Me The Money
Since financial management and P&L responsibility are highly valued management skills, CR is not in a position of strength. Thirty-five percent of respondents have no budgetary responsibility at all, and nearly a third have budgets of £200,000 or less. The percentage of respondents with budgets in excess of £1m also decreased slightly—albeit marginally—from 16 percent in 2012 to 15 percent.
Is it because we are so good at engaging others we get them to spend their own budgets or because we are able to do so much with so little?
Finally, the survey's take on salaries. This is where it gets interesting. And sad.
In the same month that the U.S. celebrates “Equal Pay Day” (thank you Lilly Ledbetter!), the survey shows that CR is not putting its money where its mouth is. For a practice that focuses on ethics, governance, human rights and other core values, this is a poor showing.
- Global average CR salaries: £67,859 for men and £52,201 for women.
- The average salary for men is constant against 2012 while the average for women dropped almost £4,500.
- The percentage of women earning £75,000–100,000 dropped from 14 percent to nine percent, and those earning £100,000–140,000 dropped from eight percent to five percent,
- Two percent of men earned £220,000+ and one percent earned £180,000–220,000; no women earned more than £180,000
- Sixty-one percent of women earned £50,000 or less, while 43 percent of men earned less than that.
Further, job levels drive this salary disparity. Men hold 63 percent of Director/Head positions while 52 percent of male respondents hold managerial roles. On the other end, women occupy 62 percent of Assistant/Team Members and 60 percent of Analysts roles.
Was this intentional?
No—or I'd like to think not. It is simply a deeply embedded way of doing business – and as a new generation slowly works its way up through the ranks, we will see if they're able to shift the needle. I just hope it doesn’t swivel to either extreme: a boys’ club or a pink ghetto.