Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


10% have known only CSR

May 2010

This year’s CR Salary Survey has highlighted an emerging phenomenon – a generation of corporate responsibility professionals who have only ever worked in the field.

The 2010 survey, published last month, shows that nine in ten of the 600 worldwide practitioners who responded had moved to their present positions from other jobs – but the remaining one in ten had never worked outside CSR.

Bethany Cox, marketing manager of the recruitment agency Acre Resources, which conducted the survey with Ethical Performance and the consultancy Acona, said the figures matched anecdotal evidence that a young, more career-oriented cadre of professionals is replacing the older guard of first-generation CSR practitioners, who were typically transferred on an ad hoc basis from other functions when their company’s corporate responsibility department was formed.

Cox said: ‘It’s safe to assume that the proportion of such people will increase significantly over time. In ten or 15 years we may arrive at the point where the majority have worked in corporate responsibility alone.’

Paul Burke, senior partner at Acona, said that although some might regret the gradual passing of a generation of CSR practitioners with wide experience of other walks of life, there was no reason to believe that increased specialisation would be a bad thing.

He said: ‘Corporate responsibility has definitely benefited from having many experienced people in its ranks who have a broad range of backgrounds and outlooks, and it would be good to keep a strong element of that diversity in the profession.

‘But there’s nothing to suggest that a new generation of dedicated corporate responsibility professionals, who have been steeped in the subject since their first job, will have a damaging effect – quite the opposite, in fact. In other spheres of corporate life people are expected to be specialists in this way.’  

Leo Martin, director of Good Corporation, the responsible business auditors, said he had met increasing numbers of corporate responsibility practitioners at conferences and gatherings who have spent their entire working life in socially responsible business.

However, he said the trend was not necessarily for the good. ‘There’s a danger that CSR professionals are becoming like many members of parliament, passionate about their subject area but lacking any experience of other parts of the corporate world,’ he said.

‘We need to ensure that people with experience in sales, finance, human resources, procurement and operations all contribute to the development of corporate responsibility policies and practices. Otherwise, CSR will lose touch with the rest of the organization and become a PR function.’

Alan Knight, associate senior partner at the AccountAbility think tank, said: ‘It will be interesting to track how those whose careers begin in CSR move into other functions and to what extent they move up into general management. That will provide an indication of progress towards the integration of sustainability into the core of a company as well as the perceived value contributed by the CSR profession.’

More survey results: p6

The full salary survey can be downloaded free from EP at

Acre Resources | Global | CSR

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