November 21, 2014

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Jobs, Careers & CSR: The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Create it

"75 million young people are unemployed, yet only 43 percent of employers report there are enough qualified entry level candidates.”

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By Steven N. Pyser, Assistant Professor, Temple University, Fox School of Business

The holiday season and final days of 2012 allowed me time to revisit a timeless classic – It’s a Wonderful Life. But this year I watched it through the lens of the principles and successes of the modern CSR movement.

The story is well known.

George Bailey is a change agent dedicated to improving life in his community. We learn through George’s eyes about life, its inestimable value and the difference each person makes. An angel-in-training, Clarence best captures a theme of the movie with the observation: “Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?”  

Compliance, Law and Regulations

Last year, Herman Aguinis and Ante Glavas published What We Know and Don't Know About Corporate Social Responsibility: A Review and Research Agenda, in which they reviewed existing CSR literature including 588 journal articles and 102 books and book chapters. The article – a must read – as well as maturation of the profession proves that CSR is moving deeper into the mainstream of global business and public policy.

With this newest development and increased visibility, however, look for the renewal of a vigorous debate about how a business should conduct itself reasonably and lawfully. The stakeholders in the outcome are countless and while subject matter experts abound as well, the positions favored by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Stephen B. Young, Global CEO of the Caux Round Table are required reading.

The new literature also begets questions of what, if any, regulations are needed -- or should be mandated -- to ensure a company has full compliance with appropriate laws, regulations, ethics and sustainability. As I mull over the past years, I will consider the following for 2013:

  1. Who sets the agenda for CSR?  
  2. How can organizations prevent, detect, report and correct compliance challenges?
  3. What levels of reporting should be required in response to calls for greater transparency and disclosure? 
  4. How will the GRI Framework's new G4 guidelines expected to release this year, affect the future of sustainability reporting?

The answers to these questions suggest job opportunities that look promising for those aspiring to pursue a career in compliance and ethics as demand for skilled professionals to create, implement and monitor compliance plans and procedures increases.

The Role of Human Capital In Sustainable Competitive Advantage

When businesses embrace CSR as a core strategy, it becomes a competitive advantage, with human capital serving as a key component in its ultimate success. As Industry Canada’s Trends and Drivers human capital(2011) reveals, “(G)lobally, HR leaders are developing and implementing incentive and appraisal systems that reflect sustainability as well as hiring personnel that embody these values.”  

However, competitive advantage can also be leveraged by creating a talent pool for recruitment. Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) frames the threshold question: “How do you select a candidate to work in an organization who can rise above the others?” 

Closing the Limiting Step: The Millennial Knowledge Gap

The McKinsey Center for Government (MCG) (2012) reports:

“The state of the world’s knowledge about education to employment is akin to that regarding school-system reform a dozen years ago, prior to groundbreaking international assessments and related research.” Further, “75 million young people are unemployed – i.e., 12.6 percent of global youth – yet only 43 percent of employers report there are enough qualified entry level candidates.” 

These are troubling statistics. Trends Journal publisher Gerald Celente puts the numbers into perspective:

The Millennials, born from around 1980 through 2000 and some 77 million strong, are slated to become the first American generation to be financially worse off than their parents were. We’ve labeled them Generation “Eff’d." For them, the perpetual growth and abundance once perceived as an American birthright has been replaced by a bleak future and an economy of constraint.

Now, competencies and knowledge learned during our college years can vary from the reality of the workplace. CSR then becomes the perfect vehicle to help close the gap by recruiting individuals with “real world” volunteering experience or the community service sector.

Spencer suggests AmeriCorps State and National – a national network of programs that engages more than 70,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet critical needs in communities sustainability leadershipthroughout the nation – as a pragmatic and viable solution. Because corps members operate in a business environment in a problem-solving mode with a tight budget and compressed time for delivering results, AmeriCorps strengthens leadership skills and exposes members to new careers with experiences beneficial to them in the job market. 

“There are many ways to pursue a career in sustainability, particularly for young professionals interested in pursuing corporate career paths,” adds Kathy Cacciola, ARAMARK's Senior Director for Environmental Sustainability. “We created a Sustainability Internship Program to help young professionals build their business knowledge, and gain a sense of how they can infuse environmental and social issues into a job.”

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Students can learn more about the program by joining Kathy for a Twitter Chat with the Student Conservation Association and CSRwire on January 22, 2013 at 1pm ET by following #sustycareers. To register, simply email aman@csrwire.com with your name and Twitter handle.

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Community Service as an Asset

However, it is necessary to highlight the substantial personal and professional sacrifices individuals make during their year of service. Their lives are placed on hold while living on modest stipends with little in our current business infrastructure to support them. Spencer asks, “What can we do as a country to help support them and introduce them to corporate America, nonprofits and employers as real human capital assets?”

Her low/no cost challenge to government, companies, nonprofits and faith-based organizations is to simply “place a box on job applications that identifies and describes your AmeriCorps service”. Better yet, why not offer otherwise qualified individuals an interview as a “thank you” for their service? 

With the Spring 2013 semester starting next week, I am keenly aware of faculty responsibilities to students. They go beyond guiding them to graduate from university and so for this semester, once again, my academic toolbox will include the success patterns of the global and growing CSR community as well as CSRwire’s news and research to help throw context, examples and relevance to the issues. And you can help by leaving a comment and teaching everyone important lessons in our "sustainability journey."

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Read the rest of our series: 2012 in Retrospect: CSR and Sustainability News, Views & Trends

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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