Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


This is not about growing up. It's about growing stronger

October 2012

As the Corporate Responsibility Group (CRG) – the development network for CSR and sustainability practitioners – enters its 25th year, it is taking the first steps to establishing a professional body to represent and support all those with a professional interest in the field. Thanks to Mark Gough's guest column in last month's Ethical Performance, we have an opportunity to set out our aims and correct some assumptions.

As Mark agrees, CSR is a profession. An unusual profession, but a profession nevertheless. We represent people in diverse sectors and roles, but with many things in common: a passionate commitment to social, economic and environmental sustainability and an unerring belief in the ability of business to be part of the solution to the challenges facing society.

These qualities are not unique to our members. Neither are the knowledge and skills it takes to deploy those qualities effectively. Our objective, therefore, is twofold: to create a form of affiliation to connect with a larger body of individuals, bringing fresh skills and qualities to CSR; and, over time, to create a form of accreditation that recognises our profession's skills, regardless of experience.

Our aim is not to create a 'growing qualified elite', as Mark puts it, but to welcome more people into our community. How many have spoken to postgraduate students or colleagues who want to move into CSR, only to find the process and the profession impenetrable? How much better to offer them access to our network, provide them with the skills, experience and opportunity to demonstrate what they can bring?

This is far from a self-congratulatory gesture, a signal that we have 'finally made it'. The financial crisis, the climate crisis, growing poverty, inequality, obesity and hunger all mean there is much to be done. Sustainability should be everyone's responsibility, but we believe there will be an increasing need for people with the ability and license to look over the horizon and convert concerns about the negative effect of business into opportunities that serve both business and society. When your job is planning for the future, you need to develop a capacity for resilience. A professional body with membership opportunities for a much larger cohort can only add to our collective resilience.  

Mark talks about the role of the sustainability professional as providing a “lens that helps others view things more holistically and challenges preconceived ideas and ways of working”. We do that and more. I also consider that a professional body is now needed to provide a voice that will enhance the role of all involved in CSR as a unique category of people in their own right.  

Our strength as a profession comes both from our specialism and our broad experience. Mark's right in saying we need the mavericks, progressives and thought leaders, but we also need the do-ers, lateral thinkers and communicators. I want to be part of a profession that benefits from the contribution of both. This is not about growing up, it's about growing stronger
Richard Brophy is head of corporate responsibility at Herbert Smith Freehills and is a CRG Board member. Email or visit

Richard Brophy | UK & NI Ireland | CSR

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