Joining the Corporate Social Responsibility Field
Image: A woman in the office
ACCP’s Board of Directors have diverse experience and unique paths into the corporate social responsibility (CSR) field. They shared how they joined the field and advice for those new to the role.
Board Chair Anita Whitehead, KPMG, began her journey into CSR through expanding her work’s focus:
“My journey started at KPMG serving primarily non-profit organizations. My work focused on strategy, governance, and business operations. Over time, it grew to focus on international giving. Then, as corporations began to enhance their societal value through their philanthropy, I was able to transfer these skills to the corporate sector – guiding companies who wanted to take their philanthropy to a higher level and now working with others on how to integrate ESG into their programs.”
Board Treasurer Chris Montross, Aetna Inc., credited his entry into CSR through the relationships he gained as a community volunteer:
“I was a CPA, Internal Audit and Financial Reporting prior to joining the CSR field; it was the relationships I established working as a volunteer in the community that helped me get my first job in the Aetna Foundation (initially the budget and operations). It’s since morphed into so much more.”
Board Governance Chair Christine Riley Miller, Samsonite LLC, gained entry through various experience in the public and nonprofit sectors, academia, and consulting before moving into the corporate sector:
“I made a stop in virtually every sector on my CSR journey. I started in the public sector working for a Massachusetts State Senator and moved into the nonprofit sector working to develop corporate partnerships. Then it was on to academia where I worked for the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. I then entered the consulting field, working with Cone Communications and finally into the private sector leading CSR for Dunkin’ Brands and now leading global sustainability for Samsonite.”
Andrea Wood, Best Buy, started in the nonprofit world before moving into corporate communications, which eventually led to community relations and social impact:
“I started my career in the nonprofit world, first as a program manager and then a development director. I’m grateful for that experience because it has made me much more empathetic to the challenges our nonprofit partners face each and every day. After 10 years in nonprofits, I moved into various corporate communications jobs, first at Travelers and then at Target. After tiring of communications, I moved on to the community relations team at Target, which ultimately led me to moving to Best Buy and leading the Social Impact team. I’ve been at Best Buy for nearly a decade and have loved every minute of it!”
Stacy Cline, GoDaddy, shifted her role from nonprofit strategy to corporate citizenship:
“I was working as a consultant with several different nonprofit organizations to help them create a strategy, rebrand their marketing efforts, and develop new fundraising campaigns. I very quickly realized that while I loved what I was doing and who I was working with, I wanted to be on the corporate side where I felt I could make real change. Timing was on my side and a 6-month temporary role opened to join the brand new GoDaddy Corporate Social Responsibility team, and here I am 8 years later.”
Rochelle Karr, O’Melveny, headed the effort to establish a CSR program at O’Melveny:
“CSR as a profession was quite organic and serendipitous at the same time. I was working full time as our head of professional development and alumni relations, and I had become very active with the American Heart Association and Orange County’s United Way. I ran into Amanda Fowler from Edwards at an AHA Go Red for Women meeting, and it was quite a reunion as the last time I’d seen her, we were playing soccer together as young girls. I had breakfast with Amanda (who had been a CSR professional for a long time) and picked her brain about how a law firm might set up a successful CSR program. She gave me a beautiful framework to think about.
After that, I met with my COO, pitched the idea to him, drafted an 18-page blueprint of what our program would look like, and we were off to the races. It is a source of pride to be one of the first law firms to truly embrace CSR and it’s exciting to see so many law firms now joining the effort. The rising tide floats all boats – at ACCP we share best CSR practices across law firms and it’s exciting to be a part of the evolution of CSR in the legal profession. We even started an ACCP industry group for Legal Professionals to have a forum for law firms and in-house legal department team members to share how we might work together on advancing our mutual CSR priorities.”
The path to CSR is varied, but the desire to make impacts is shared. If you are considering joining the field, ACCP’s board members have helpful advice.
Stephanie Lomibao-Parra, Bank of America, advised looking for employers with visions and missions that align with yours:
“Because CSR professions directly correlate to the overall mission, vision, and purpose of the company, those entering into the field of CSR should start by first ensuring that their personal values, inspirations, and drive are reflected and amplified by the culture and commitments of the employer. Even today, I continue to work on developing my ability to know, integrate, and embrace the perspective of the company I am so proud to work for so that the connection between who we are as a brand and what I do in CSR are seamlessly connected.”
Anita encouraged new CSR professionals to understand business strategy:
“Really understand a company’s business first, and then focus on CSR. You will make a bigger impact if you understand the nuances of a company’s business strategy.”
Stacy recommended an adaptable approach:
“CSR teams tend to be lean and are always responding to pressing needs and often those needs change frequently. Be ready to quickly adapt and remember that what you’re doing is making a big difference!”
If you are looking to join the CSR field, ACCP posts CSR jobs weekly.