Understanding Corporate Social Responsibility

Interest in going into Corporate Social Responsibility is definitely on the rise. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is grounded in the idea that businesses can make the world a better place, or at the very least, reduce their negative social and environmental impact. Think about it as making change from the inside. There are a variety of ways that businesses and corporations can leverage their place, power, and resources for good: from job training to direct giving. This guide from the balance goes into more detail about the definition, origins, and examples of corporate responsibility, and will give you some ideas for understanding this important intersection of industries for social impact. 

Right now, there are not very many entry-level roles in CSR. If you hope to get into CSR, you might start by getting your “foot in the door” through a different department at a company or corporation that has a CSR strategy, or, develop some skills and expertise in the field by starting in a role at a non-profit or other public sector organization. Let your values lead you. Consider what’s important to you, and find opportunities that allow you to have an impact surrounding those issues. You might also get a start by working for a company whose mission involves social or environmental responsibility. There are increasingly more organizations in this category, particularly in the retail space, that focus on local and sustainable practices. Here are a few examples:

  • Indiebound: A website that helps you find book titles at a local independent bookstore
  • Pangaia: A clothing company that plants trees with each purchase and works with grassroots NGOs to support conservation efforts globally 
  • EndangeredSpecies: A fair trade chocolate company that’s products advocate a sustainable eco-system that encourages habitat conservation and nurtures communities 
  • TOMS: The original one-for-one company that donated a pair of shoes for each pair purchased

There are certain skill sets that you’ll want to develop to make you a good candidate for the work of CSR. Strong skills in storytelling and communication will lend themselves to helping organizations get the word out and tell a story about their positive impact. BET’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, Nneka Norville, gives advice for launching a career in CSR and talks about skills to build, including writing and relationship building in this Forbes interview.

Ready to learn more about CSR? Explore CSR by researching organizations with interesting CSR strategies or brands and organizations grounded in community and environmental impact. Take a look at this Idealist guide to private sector jobs that give back for some more ideas. Most importantly, talk to professionals who work in the field! Use The Herd and LinkedIn to search for Tufts alumni who work in CSR to hear their stories, ask about their experiences, and get suggestions and advice.

By Sheryl Rosenberg
Sheryl Rosenberg Assistant Director Sheryl Rosenberg