Recap by Miaoru Guan
Corporate Social Responsibility, commonly referred to as CSR, describes companies’ initiatives to give back to the environment and community. The April 2018 Green Careers panelists spoke about their extensive experience with a wide range of CSR initiatives that help companies fulfill these goals while also improving the bottom line.
Zoha Karmali began her career in sales and marketing for Tata Group and combined her skills with her passion for CSR to eventually transition into the field. She coordinated volunteer programming and corporate hotel sustainable practices for 100 locations and 25,000 employees of Tata Group’s luxury hospitality firm. Abisola Adekoya is currently a consultant at Salterbaxter MSL Group and advises companies in telling stories of sustainability through reporting. Prior to sustainability consulting, Abisola worked to bring together companies and NGOs to solve pressing issues in international development. Heliana Higbie has experience with both the public and private sector. Heliana has implemented sustainable agriculture programs for PepsiCo in addition to renewable energy resilience efforts for the City of Yonkers and NYC Transit.
Photo by Rishika Shrivastava
CSR efforts not only benefit the community and the environment but also increase long term profits for the company. Zoha talked about how company-wide employee volunteer programs allowed for inter-departmental networking within her company. Abisola agreed and mentioned that volunteering activities increase employee engagement and overall productivity. Heliana discussed climate resiliency fixes for the MTA that improve transportation reliability during natural disasters, reducing the cost of recovery.
For companies interested in starting or increasing their CSR initiatives, the panelists gave insights into strategies that encourage CSR. The easiest way to implement programs is to have support from upper management. When the CEO or other decision-makers recognize the benefits of CSR and emphasize it as a priority for the company, sustainability professionals have the necessary support to organize initiatives and employees are encouraged to participate in events. When there is no clear mandate, sustainability professionals can engage individual departments and people to elicit interest. The panelists also highlighted the most effective CSR strategies, such as volunteer programs that integrate job responsibilities.
Drawing from their unique backgrounds, the speakers gave advice to those interested in entering the CSR industry. The panelists all agreed that is not necessary to have a direct career path to CSR. Abisola mentioned that having colleagues with different backgrounds is an asset because it brings more nuanced perspectives to the table when making CSR decisions. Zoha emphasized the importance of applying skills gained from other opportunities to CSR jobs, such as communication and teamwork. Heliana encouraged people to think outside the box for career decisions and to carve one’s own path by using resources from schools and professional networks.