By Kelly Waldron
Manager, Corporate Citizenship
Last year, when I made the decision to join the inaugural class of the Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility, I figured I would learn a few things and meet some people in a similar field. Now, half way through our year of learning, I’m impressed with the amazing faculty, the high caliber of guest speakers, the knowledge of my fellow classmates, and the meaningful discussion and course work. All of this combined has provided a rare opportunity to dive deep into the challenges and opportunities that accompany a job in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) sector.
After just two sessions, we’ve already discussed topics ranging from sustainability to employee engagement, from measuring success to encouraging innovation, from nonprofit partnerships to working with the federal government, from Social Impact Bonds to “Shared Value” models — all the while focusing on how we, as CSR professionals, can achieve the most good for our companies and our communities. Without a doubt, participating in the Institute has added to the value that I bring back to my company and CSR program.
The Institute has also heightened the way I think about my work. For example, last month, WRAG invited Dan Pallotta to speak to member CEOs about the importance of changing the negative perception of nonprofit “overhead.” Without the necessary investments in the growth and management of nonprofit organizations, how can we expect them to change the world? Immediately, the similarities to the corporate world jumped out to me. For many, corporate social responsibility is seen as overhead – the allocation of company dollars and resources that could otherwise be passed on to shareholders or could be used to cut costs for consumers. But, through the Institute, my classmates and I have explored, discussed, and have come to truly understand that our role as CSR professionals is a key driver not only of our companies’ public image but also of our companies’ bottom line. Whether it’s attracting and retaining top employees, improving the communities where we do business, or paving the way into new markets, CSR is a key component of the corporate world and drives value back to the business – a fact that was difficult to clearly articulate before my participation in the Institute.
As I look forward to the next Institute session in July, I can’t wait to be energized and invigorated by the passion of my classmates and professors, to learn from the thoughtfulness their companies demonstrate in folding their CSR activities into their everyday business activities, and to walk away with new ideas and best practices that are applicable and practical to my day-to-day job.