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Due soon: professional body for practitioners?

May 2010

One of Europe’s most influential corporate responsibility networks is to consider changing its structure to become a membership body of individual practitioners rather than companies.

The UK-based Corporate Responsibility Group (CRG), whose members include about 100 leading companies, will discuss the change at this month’s annual meeting.

If the idea gains support, it could lead the way to the creation of what might become the first professional association solely for CSR practitioners – in line with similar bodies around the world for solicitors, architects and marketing professionals.

The CRG emphasises that the proposal is at an early stage but concedes the discussions have been given impetus by a recently introduced code of conduct for practitioners (EP11, issue 10, p1).

It is keen to oversee, promote and develop the code but realises that role would be easier if its members were the individuals to whom the code applies, rather than the firms employing them.

Specifically, the CRG concedes that as a body of corporate members it has limited leverage on practitioners who fail to uphold the code – and even less on the vast majority of practitioners whose companies are not in membership.

Yogesh Chauhan, CRG deputy chair and the BBC’s chief adviser on corporate responsibility, told EP that a change in membership criteria was ‘a very live issue’ and is being explored as part of a strategy review.

‘We’re looking at whether there are ways in which we can square the circle by which we have companies as members but we are there to support the individual,’ he said. ‘The two positions often don’t sit particularly well as far as a professional body is concerned.’

At present the non-profit CRG, which was formed in 1987, is run largely on a voluntary basis by CSR practitioners such as Chauhan, receiving administrative help from a small secretariat.

Corporate membership costs £1925 ($2940, €2225) per year, allowing an unlimited number of CSR practitioners within every member company to benefit from the group’s activities – which include seminars, dinners and an annual two-day conference. About 300 individuals gain from membership in this way.

‘We’re mindful that we are practitioners in companies, so it’s about trying to work our way round a membership structure that represents that,’ said Chauhan. ‘We’re hoping to make outline suggestions at our annual meeting about what we might be doing in the future, so it’s reasonably well progressed. Essentially we’re looking at what the future of CRG ought to be.’

One problem with any change in structure might be financial, as companies can pay much larger membership fees than individuals. However, while  fees for individuals would be lower, there would be more members.

Additionally, if the CRG assumed the wider role of a professional association it might earn income from activities such as training courses, events, legal representation – or even examinations and the administration of professional qualifications.

Chauhan interview: p9




Corporate Responsibility Group | UK & NI Ireland | CSR

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