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1. Acquire the Essential Skills: Leaders in this field must influence other business managers to be successful. You must be the conscience for your company while, at the same time, be practical, patient and learn the practice of “corporate jujutsu.” Ju Jutsu is an apt metaphor for skills needed in this career path - it is the Japanese martial art defined as “gentle, supple, flexible, pliable, or yielding” (Jū) and “manipulating the opponent’s force against himself rather than confronting it with one’s own force (Jutsu).”
2. Learn to Run a Disciplined Program: Corporate responsibility is so broad that it’s confusing to know where to start. Identifying the important issues, as opposed to the merely interesting, is the essential starting point for an effective program. Building management systems around these issues – with clear goals, defined owners, and key performance indicators – is the foundation of a successful corporate responsibility program, or any corporate program for that matter.
3. Master a Wide Range of Programs: “Jack of all trades and master of none” accurately describes a career in this field. Corporate responsibility leaders need to understand issues ranging from environment, ethics, diversity, human rights, governance, compensation, supply chain and more.
4. Know Your Stakeholders: In corporate responsibility, identifying “customers” - or “stakeholders” - can be tricky. Outside the company, socially responsible investors, non-profit groups and activists, the local community, customers, competitors and the media are key stakeholders. Equally important are the stakeholders inside the company who include the Board of Directors, the CEO and his/her executive team, the leaders of key business groups and the employee population as a whole.
5. Align Your Profession to Your Passion: While getting a job in corporate responsibility can be tough, the good news is that you can work on responsibility issues from any job. Regardless of whether you work in the corporate responsibility department or work for good from another role, the secret to career satisfaction is to match your profession to your passion. When you work for your cause, it’s not really work. In the words of Gary Hirshberg, the former CEO of Stonyfield Farms: “If a company makes you check your values at the door, find somewhere else to work.”