What is Our Role?

The Corporate Responsibility Officers Association posted this blog from me today. I thought it would be of interest to readers of CSRPerspective too.

I chair the professional development committee of the Corporate Responsibility Officers Association (CROA). I am especially passionate about this component of the work of the Association. I have a directional aspiration for the CRO and the practice to be considered in a similar way to the CFO, or the Chief Legal Counsel. I say ‘directional’ aspiration because I don’t expect, nor do I wish for it to be exactly the same. Both the financial and legal roles have a significant component of compliance and I see the role of the CRO as distinctly ‘beyond compliance’.

That said, one of the things that gives the CFO and Chief Legal Counsel (CLC) their gravitas, is a recognized set of responsibilities, competencies and principles to work to. I think we need the same for the CRO and for CR practitioners. Some say that this is navel gazing and we need to be out there embedding the principles of CR in the business. Others have said to me that our practice is only temporary and that once the principles are embedded in the business the need for our role will be gone. I think both perspectives are valid, although I disagree…..

Navel gazing; I certainly agree that we should be out there embedding the principles in the business. But that is no different than the CFO and the CLC needing to be out there ensuring that the employees across the company are aware of and implementing the principles of cost and revenue and the respect for the law in their day to day business activities. None of that denies the need for the defined role of the CFO and CLC, In fact I think it strengthens it.

The temporary nature of our role; If you believe that corporate responsibility is addressing climate change, then sure, once the science is fully accepted and incorporated into the way we run our business, the need for the role is fulfilled. But if corporate responsibility is about business acting positively in regards to the broadest needs of society and the environment, there will always be a new issues around the corner that the CRO will identify before it causes the business serious pain.

So I remain enthusiastic about this work to develop the professional standing of the practice. Defining a consistent set of competencies, job description and a behavioral code for the role are some of the first things I would like to see happen.


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