CSR from a traditional job - Career Advice from the trenches

Responsible Careers: When looking for  career advice, aspiring CSR professionals are most often looking for concrete examples of socio-eco innovators (SEIs) who have driven socio-eco innovation while in a traditional role within a company. More specifically, every week, we focus on SEIs that are driving change while not being members of the company's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or Corporate Responsibility (CR) Department. Through these stories, you can find inspiration as well as concrete ways to drive change from your current position.

Two weeks ago, we reviewed how  Betsy Hansen, a Marketing professional, was able to change how Sun Microsystems was planning and promoting events. Her initiatives had tremendous results in terms of environmental impact (as well as cost savings). This story illustrates that driving socio-eco innovation can in fact save money to your company.  Last week, we reviewed how  Hamlin Metzger created his own position as Senior CSR Manager at Best Buy through his ability to successfully influence others to integrate social and environmental responsibility into their projects.  This week, we will review career advice that can be derived from the Green Team initiative that  Hilary Sinclair, a process improvement manager, launched at eBay.  Her story presented below is based on the report published in the  Net Impact Impact at Work brochure.

Career Advice #1:  Get employees engaged as initiative partners.  Sinclair organized an employee event in which she encouraged employees to write down ideas on how their company could be greener.  After the event, Sinclair organized the ideas into 4 categories that became the foundation of their Vancouver Green Team:  commuting, consumables, energy, and community impact.

Career Advice #2:  Rewards shape behaviors.  Sinclair partnered with departments across the company to offer rewards related to the four categories that employees had identified as focus for their Green team.  They included rewards for better commuting (e.g. subsidized public transportation, discounted parking costs for employees that carpool), rewards for reducing consumables (e.g. prizes for employees that bring reusable utensils from home, reducing water bottle use by installing water coolers), energy use (e.g. engaging other renters in the building to brainstorm innovative ways to make the building more energy efficient), and community impact (e.g. partner with local non-profit for employees to volunteer in the community).  The rewards helped employees change their behaviors and think about how they could reduce their environmental impact at work.

Career Advice #3:  Stay true to your core strategies.  Two years after the first Green Team initiative, Green teams are now active in over 20 countries.  However, the 4 categories they operate around remain those that they started with:  commuting, consumables, energy, and community impact.  By engaging around projects that focus on these 4 categories, Green Teams are able to best learn from one another.  Furthermore, Green Teams are better able to communicate their impact and how it fits the bigger picture.

As aspiring SEI or CSR professionals, the  career advice you can derive from Sinclair's story includes (1) engaging others as co-creators of green initiatives, (2) using rewards helps change behaviors, and (3) building momentum is easier around simple categories generated by co-creators.  By successfully helping employees implement their own process improvement strategies around the 4 core categories they helped co-create, Sinclair empowered her colleagues to make lasting changes in eBay's environmental impact.

What other pieces of career advice do you have for aspiring CSR professionals or SEIs? I look forward to reading your comments and questions!

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