CSR from a traditional job - Career Advice from the trenches

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.

Last week, 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.

This week, we will explore another type of socio-eco innovation, which focuses on changing the corporate culture on socio-eco innovation throughout a company.  Our example will focus on the work of Hamlin Metzger at Best Buy.  His story presented below is based on the report published in the Net Impact Impact at Work brochure.  In 2005, Hamlin and a few colleagues started an informal group to discuss corporate responsibility.  By building upon existing processes and integrating the goals of the group with the current corporate strategies in place, they set out to engage Best Buy employees in conversations about corporate responsibility.  To do so, they followed a strategy that included three pieces of career advice you can follow:

  • Career Advice #1: Educate - Hamlin and his colleagues organized venues for corporate responsibility discussions to take place.  A movie festival that focuses on movies such as 'An Inconvenient Truth', a speakers series, and team meetings to discuss corporate responsibility all aimed at educating current employees and constituents on corporate responsibility and how it supports their company's strategies and values.
  • Career Advice #2: Advocate - By gathering competitive intelligence on competitors, researching industry standards and policies, Hamlin's team designed specific responsible strategies that provided the company with a competitive advantage.  For example, their research showed a growing number of local laws that aimed at reducing plastic bag use.  Taking this opportunity, they convinced senior management to change to 30% recycled content bags and promote reusable bags.
  • Career Advice #3: Integrate - By educating and advocating for more responsible solutions, Hamlin and his team facilitated the process of employees applying sustainability ideas to their projects in their respective function.  Hamlin and his team empowered employees to connect, and find innovative ways to apply responsible approaches to their projects.  By providing guidance (not orders) and a vision of how these approaches aligned with business goals, Hamlin and his team successfully influenced over 100 employees, leading to a culture shift in which a growing number of employees were proactively looking at how to complete their projects that maximized social impact while minimizing environmental impacts.

Based on these projects, Hamlin was able to carve out his own role, and became Bet Buy's first Senior Manager for Corporate Responsibility.  By delivering on his projects and dedicating extra time to corporate responsibility projects, Hamlin showed his commitment, as well as his ability to influence employees throughout the company.  As aspiring SEI or CSR professionals, the career advice you can derive from his story includes (1) educating others, (2) advocating while aligning with corporate strategies, and (3) helping other employees with tools and data to empower them to integrate corporate responsibility in their traditional roles.

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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