Serving the Corporate Responsibility Profession

Back in April 2009, I was a founding member of the governing board of the Corporate Responsibility Officers Association.  In a short post I wrote at the time I noted my aspiration “that one of the things the CROA will be able to contribute to will be increasing the structure and recognition of the role and in so doing, will enhance the professional standing of practitioners.”  In fact I made such a big thing of this at the governing board meetings that I was asked to set up a new committee of the association to address exactly this. (What I learned from that is not to spout off about something unless I am prepared to put some work into it myself!).

My stint on the governing board ended after two years and I continued to chair the professional development association for an additional year and just handed over the reins to my successor, Bart Alexander from Molson Coors.

As a committee, we spent our few meetings identifying the characteristics that define a profession and shortlisted those we would focus on.

  • Professional society
  • A clear definition of the role
  • Specification of knowledge, skills and attributes
  • Code of ethics

The CRO Association now includes an individual membership category and we focused the mission on empowering individuals at all levels to take action to improve corporate citizenship.

We took a lot of input from members of the profession in workshops, at conferences, on webinars and in one to one conversations and, in February 2011, published a Guidebook on Structuring and Staffing Corporate Responsibility that included job descriptions mapped across to a definition of knowledge, skills and attributes.  We presented this at the subsequent CR conference and developed ideas for the next steps for the professional development of the field.

We also considered the role of ethics, established an advisory group and published a draft code of ethics for practitioners. Our intent was to develop a values-based ethics statement rather than a compliance statement.   We held two ethics workshop sessions at CR conferences. At the first we held roundtable debates on case studies on ethical dilemmas.  The second, at Commit Forum 2011 inNew York, was facilitated by Rush Kidder only a few months before his untimely death. Rush reinforced for me the idea of Ethical Fitness and the importance of personal ethical strength.

Ethics is the area about which I feel the most passionate. Attendees at the workshops were very engaged and enthusiastic. However gaining consensus to a code proved a tough nut to crack because there is still a broad range of views of the values at the core of the role. I hope that the discussions themselves served a purpose even though we didn’t manage to complete agreement on a code.

I am moving on now. I think it is healthy for committees to have new leadership and the opportunity to take a fresh look at priorities and direction. My thanks to Richard Crespin and the staff at CROA for their support and to all the committee members who served during my term as chair;  Hess Oil, Boeing, Molson Coors, Cisco, Capaccio, Crowe Horwath and Weinreb Group.    I also want to extend a big thanks to Bart Alexander for agreeing to pick up where I left off and move things forward.

CROA is not the only organization working on professional development. I wrote a post about some of the others. But we are not there yet. I participated in a workshop on Business and Human Rights with John Ruggie earlier last week at the State Department. At the end of one of the breakouts, one of theUS government representatives commented that he continued to perceive a lack of standard methods to approach human rights issues across companies.  I could see why he thought that based on the discussion in the workshop.   Of course, one solution is legislation and regulation.   Another though is to continue to develop the role of the professional practitioner so that when we meet at workshops we have a common understanding of what we do and how we do it.

Professional development is an area about which I continue to feel passionate and I am looking forward to seeing the next initiative from the CROA come to fruition.




  1. Comments 1

  2. Bart Alexander 12:03 pm on May 8, 2012

    Many thanks, Kevin, for your thoughtful piece and all the work you have done to move the CR profession forward. The committee members are now moving to outline the body of knowledge and work with academic institutions to this area into their core curriculum and CR-related programs. Suggestions, concerns and contributions from practitioners, academics and keen observers are always welcome. Cheers!

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