Starting a career in corporate social responsibility

Corporate citizenship professionals’ varied and exciting work touches on many dimensions. But in the constantly evolving and growing field of ESG, what unites all professionals in their career path? The following findings from the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s Profile of the Professionals study reveal key common threads in successful corporate citizenship careers.

career in corporate social responsibility csr

The CSR career skill that will help you adapt and grow: Continuous learning

Professional development is an important objective among corporate responsibility professionals. A large majority—nearly 80%—of corporate citizenship professionals are investing in professional development, an 18% increase from 2018. This trend holds true across roles: Of senior executives, directors, managers, and staff, at least 75% of each job level report having some form of professional development.

Generally, the longer a respondent has been working in the field, the more likely they are to have invested in professional development devoted to the ESG dimensions of business. More than 85% of respondents with more than 15 years of corporate citizenship experience have professional development, compared to 72% of those with experience of five years or fewer.

Working in an evolving role means that corporate citizenship professionals need to be lifelong learners. To address knowledge gaps at work, a large majority of corporate citizenship professionals turn to both networking with peers and online resources.

Here are some of the ways that corporate citizenship professionals address knowledge gaps at work:

  • 83% network with peers
  • 77% conduct research online
  • 32% take a class
  • 28% hire a consultant
  • 24% upgrade technology to manage programs
  • 15% work toward a corporate citizenship certificate

The CSR career skill that will improve your effectiveness: Intentional networking

Networking is an essential skill in the evolving field of corporate citizenship. Research suggests that having diverse social relationships can support the creativity that is necessary to carry out day-to-day work. A majority of corporate citizenship professionals are on small teams. For this reason, corporate citizenship professionals frequently engage with other departments to achieve their objectives, most commonly corporate communications, public relations/affairs, human relations, marketing, and legal. Nearly 65% of corporate citizenship professionals rank communications as one of the top five departments with which they work most frequently.

Working on a small team means a supportive work environment and corporate culture is key: A majority of respondents rank company culture among most helpful factors that contribute to getting their work done. Internal networking could even help corporate citizenship professionals in their next career step, as a majority report that they were hired for their current role from other roles in the company.

Crucial skills for CSR professionals: Career advice from the field

As leaders in the field, members of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship know better than most that their career path benefits from strong networks and professional development. Here, four corporate citizenship professionals who participated in the Accelerated Certificate Summit share the CSR job skills that helped most in their diverse career paths.

“In order to be successful in corporate citizenship, being able to connect the dots within your organization and within the community are both extremely important. Maintaining a high-level view at all times allows me to identify opportunities for collaboration through networking conversations—which, keep in mind, can happen both internally and externally. Staying out of “the weeds” and focusing on the big picture is an essential skill.”

Julie Cross

Global Corporate Citizenship Manager Trane Technologies

“Two skills have helped me in corporate citizenship: Relationship development and event planning. For our educational and youth leadership programs, I cultivate relationships with principals, teachers, and district administrators. I check on them throughout the year, and we exchange ideas for enhancing our youth programs. My background in event strategy and design enables me to create memorable moments that balance our needs—such as providing volunteer opportunities for our employees—with the needs of our stakeholders and community partners.”

Karen D. Ewing

Community Relations Representative Jackson EMC

“To truly learn about the issues facing underserved and underrepresented communities, one must prioritize listening. My ability to listen and communicate with various stakeholder groups has been critical to my success. In addition, serving partners and crucial community leaders thoughtfully allows our work to impact communities positively.”

Henocson “Henny” Mulatre

Manager, Corporate Citizenship Point32Health

“I come from a non-traditional background—I used to be an auditor! Coming from a background in audit, my client-facing experience has helped me when managing internal and external stakeholders, and my experience balancing multiple clients has helped with managing our various partnerships with non-profits and social enterprises. I believe that when others consider a career in corporate citizenship, they might fear that not having a background in marketing or communications will be a barrier to entry; however, any background can be beneficial when working in corporate citizenship.”

Laura Schlee

National EY Ripples Corporate Responsibility Leader EY

Opportunity to network and learn with other CSR professionals

The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship is happy to offer our most popular certificate—The Certificate in Corporate Citizenship Practice—in an Accelerated Summit that combines the valuable networking of live-learning courses with the flexibility of online options. This dynamic event kicks off a hybrid-learning experience that enables you to earn your Certificate quickly and cost-effectively by diving deep into CSR best practices and connecting core skills with applicable electives. The Summit offers plentiful opportunities to network with colleagues as well.