Putting Words to our Work: A New Field Guide for CSR Professionals

By Carolyn Berkowitz

When my children were young, they would ask—as many children do—about what I did for a living. I vividly remember my son saying “Mom, I know you talk on the phone and write emails…but what are they about?” They knew I cared deeply about supporting young people. They knew I cared deeply about education. And they knew I cared deeply about giving back to my community. But to them, the traditional office setting in which I conducted my work didn’t seem to line up with what I said I “did” for a living.

For those working in corporate citizenship or corporate social responsibility, this is a well-understood challenge, with not an easy to understand answer. Sometimes, the role of CSR professionals isn’t even understood among the employees of one company.

Since joining the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals earlier this year, I’ve heard many of our 200+ members reinforce this dilemma: that there is a need to improve the understanding of the work that they do and its many complexities within their companies and business communities. While the people on the team grasp the magnitude and meaning of the work, many across their organizations and in the C-suite do not. And while other professions encapsulate and communicate the breadth of an occupation by adopting a Body of Knowledge, our profession had not - until now.

The Corporate Citizenship Guide: Defining the Profession is a new collection of suggested knowledge and concepts that comprise the work of corporate citizenship professionals. ACCP’s development of the guide, now available for download and viewing, took nearly two years to compile and is the product of significant interviews with our corporate members and fellow CSR professionals.

Its purpose is to define the expertise of individuals and/or teams in corporate citizenship, and within a company’s overall corporate citizenship function. It’s just the tool I know I would have appreciated throughout my CSR career.

The guide offers insights into each facet of corporate citizenship: from employee engagement to disaster preparedness. Grants management to cause marketing. And really, that’s the beauty and power of CSR: that it can and should look different inside every company. And, when done right, can be the best reflection of a company’s mission in action.

Not only does ACCP’s new Corporate Citizenship Guide provide an overview of those services, but it helps to link each of those services back to a company’s mission at large. And by doing so, the guide helps to set a frame for any CSR professional, at any level, to better articulate their role and the function of their department within a company’s larger structure.

My children, now grown, have come to appreciate the role of corporate citizenship inside their own companies and communities, and both have gone on to actively participate. But wide gaps still exist in understanding CSR as a community benefit tool. I believe that this guide will do much to support emerging and established corporate citizenship departments to sharpen their focus and better articulate their reasons for being.

I invite you to download a copy of The Corporate Citizenship Guide: Defining the Profession from the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals website and drop me a line with your thoughts.