A Decade of Teaching CSR in Canada: Mimi Marrocco of St. Michael's College Shares Insights
By: Meirav Even-Har, Toronto
This past May I joined fellow alumni from the University of St. Michael's College Certificate Program in Corporate Social Responsibility. We gathered for a full day conference to learn, share and network with other graduates. Most of all, we've come together to celebrate the Program's first ten years.
Director of CSR Programs M.J. (Mimi) Marrocco met with me to talk about the CSR program and reflect on the past ten years of having corporate Canada on campus.
Plunge In - Deconstruct - Re-Integrate
The CSR Certificate is premised on the importance of getting participants to plunge in, deconstruct, and re-integrate," Mimi Marrocco explains. "The three course modules are designed as such in order to appreciate both the individual elements that constitute CSR and the importance of making them connect." The multi-faceted nature of CSR has to be taught as such or elements of it such as human rights, community investment and sustainability remain as silos.
I am reminded of my own experience taking the course among a class of professionals from Canada and abroad. The small class, multitude of guest speakers and a faculty team meant the discussions were plentiful and with resonance. Marrocco reminds me it's all quite deliberate. "The experience is designed to enable practitioners to stop and think." She adds, "It has often been described as 'transformational' by successful candidates."
Here's how the certificate course works: One academic year, three modules that combine in-person meeting time, online learning and tools.
- First or Foundational Module (three days) invites candidates to reflect on the values that drive them, both personally and professionally. It considers the meaning of CSR in its various iterations.
- Second Module (five days) addresses the various elements of CSR in turn and allows participants to consider more deeply the implications of ethics, human rights, employee engagement, environmental stewardship and community investment and involvement.
- Module 3 (three days) focuses on the importance of leadership and good governance.
Learning CSR in a Catholic College
"The importance of the imagination, reflection, the arts in general and the power of story in particular, are featured throughout the program." Marrocco reiterates the importance of having participants slow down, to stop and think. She remarks, "The reflective side of the individual enables us to reach the point of integrity. To better understand what you are and what you do."
A Decade of CSR in Canada
"Over the past ten years CSR has become what I would think of as a "household name," Marrocco notes. "Green products, green companies, cause marketing, social entrepreneurship, micro finance, ethical sourcing, no longer require explanation." Reflecting back Marrocco comments that ten years ago the conversation around CSR was about the business case. "I think the business case is pretty well a "given" today and now, participants want tools for measuring and reporting on their CSR activities."
"Today's conversation increasingly includes an attempt to redefine the very purpose of the corporation, or even to acknowledge its original essence." To illustrate, Morrocco references Joel Bakan's The Corporation. In the book's introduction, Bakan notes that the corporation's role as initially conceived was meant to harness private capital for the public good. "This is a significant change."
Marrocco emphasizes that while progress has been positive there is still a great deal to do. "The environmental challenge remains significant and governments are still slow to act." The program's aim is to talk about breaking down the big issues into bite-sized pieces. "Hence the elephant in the room," she refers to the metaphorical one, as well as a physical stuffed leather elephant that reminds candidates to remain aware of our collective challenges.
This is Part I of a two-part series in conversation with Mimi Marrocco, Director CSR Programs at the University of St. Michael's College. Part II will further delve into Canadian CSR performance, leading companies and how it all fits with the Certificate Program's continuous growth.
To learn more about the Certificate Program in Corporate Social Responsibility visit: http://ce.stmikes.utoronto.ca/csr
Image: St. Michael's College Campus, courtesy of St. Michael's College Continuing Education.