Ten years ago, I worked as a CSR Consultant for the New Economics foundation in London and often discussed with them which of our two countries was more effective at handling the use of sweatshop labor by large coroprations. In the process, we arrived at a key insight: In the United States, the approach seemed focused on developing effective monitoring programs to combat sweatshops while in the United Kingdom there appeared to be a broader, project-based approach involving multi-sector partnerships.
Today, those initial impressions of focused and broad CSR in the U.S. versus the U.K. have been borne out through my current research: comparing more than 500 CSR jobs postings in the U.S. and U.K. Over the past two years I have tracked all jobs postings coming out of U.S.-based Business for Social Responsibility’s (BSR) jobs board and the U.K.-based CSR-Chicks, a YahooGroups listserv with over 3,000 subscribers — both leading sources of CSR jobs postings for their respective countries. The telling result? The job postings in the U.S. are very specifically clustered within the same sector, industry, and position, while the job postings in the U.K. vary across the board.
This isn’t just about CSR job trends, however. My research also demonstrates how such an elemental difference in approach has significantly affected the “state of CSR” in each country. Here are some of my key findings:
- In the U.S., the CSR jobs market focuses on companies, while in the U.K. the focus is on partnership associations.Of the 500+ job postings (207 U.S. and 310 U.K.), each was categorized by type of organization. Corporations with internal CSR programs (such as Disney, Starbucks, and Pfizer) made up 45% of the U.S. listings and 17% of the U.K. listings. Associations topped the U.K.’s jobs category at 32%. Associations are nonprofit organizations such as BSR or AccountAbility.These associations are proven thought leaders in the CSR field through their research, best practices publications, and multi-stakeholder programs. The fact that the companies are the number-one employers in the U.S. and the associations are the number-one employers in the U.K. suggests that ten years after Maya and my initial observations, the focused versus broad distinctions still ring true.
- Most of the corporate CSR jobs are in U.S.-based consumer products companies.In the U.S., those companies that listed jobs for internal CSR positions were very concentrated in the consumer products industry with specific concentration in the apparel sector. Nike, Levi Strauss, Timberland, Donna Karan, Jones, and Ann Taylor all had postings. Consumer products companies comprise of 78% (72 out of 92) of the U.S. jobs postings and only 15% (or 8 out of 55) of the U.K. jobs postings. Non-consumer industries made up 85% of the U.K. corporate postings, including utilities, media, and insurance companies.
- U.S. companies hire in the area of monitoring and compliance.To take the argument further, 58% (or 53 out of 92) of the U.S. corporate jobs have monitoring and compliance titles compared to 6% (or 3 out of 55) in the U.K.. This concentration of monitoring and compliance programs in the U.S. is consistent with the regulatory and standards setting that were the focus 10 year ago. U.K. companies have also set up monitoring and compliance programs but not to the same degree as in the U.S.. Claire Skinner, managing director of the leading London-based CSR recruitment agency Ruston Wheb, points out that “Over the last two years, we have seen a significant increase in supply chain integrity and human rights-related positions.”
- U.K. companies hire for CSR integration.“The CSR focus in the U.K. is to implement CSR across the organization,” notes Satu Kreula, an independent CSR career coach who runs regular workshops in London. She says, “the employer seeks candidates with wide-ranging business skills to empower departments across the organization to look at their functions from a more ethical standpoint.” According to Claire Skinner, “most positions are CSR in general but have a supply chain component to them.” In fact 20% of the U.K. jobs listed had a CSR generalist title while in the U.S., only 7% included a generalist title.
Apples and Oranges?
While the data is compelling, for sake of academic integrity it is important to point out why a BSR and CSR-Chicks comparison is a comparison of two very different fruits. BSR’s job board is a Web page posting mid- to senior-level management positions while CSR-Chicks is a listserve posting junior to mid-range positions. Posting a position on BSR costs at least $100 for non-members while posting on CSR-Chicks is free. Claire Skinner points out that, “the positions that do get posted to CSR-Chicks tend to be from associations, partnerships or clients seeking to raise their profile across the industry.” Teresa Fabian, co-founder of CSR-Chicks and currently senior manager of PricewaterhouseCoopers Sustainable Business Solutions practice, “Members range from veterans, to those who are not really in CSR but would like to be and hence subscribe to keep an eye out on the job posting front.” (And no, CSR-Chicks is not just for women, even though a male counterpart, CSRBlokes, does exist.)
In addition, all Brits I have talked to are very quick to point out that most positions in the U.K. are not posted at all. Claire Skinner says, “The significant volume of work we undertake is search driven and may not be advertised.” U.K. jobs are found through networking. While the U.S. jobs are definitely won with savvy networking, they are also posted (thanks to our Department of Labor and the Equal Opportunity Act).
Finally, it’s worth noting that jobs postings alone do not offer a complete picture of the state of CSR. It would be valuable to know whether these positions are newly created or existing. A newly created position would indicate a specific kind of growth. An existing position could tell us something about turnover. It would also be valuable to know how many CSR positions exist within an organization rather than how many positions are being posted. For example, Nike’s CSR department has had a headcount as high as 90 while only three positions have been posted in the past two years which could suggest little turnover, downsizing or, mostly likely, filling positions internally to further integrate CSR within the business. BSR has a staff of about 50 with 27 postings over the past two years which probably results from growth of the organization and turnover.
The Continental Divide…Ten Years from Now
Now that I’ve completed this ten-year assessment, I can’t help but wonder: What will the “continental divide” in the state of CSR look like in another ten years? I see the U.K. and the U.S. moving toward each other. The U.S. companies will move in the direction of CSR integration, while the U.K. companies will build up their monitoring and compliance efforts. I also predict that more labor supply-chain issues will be rooted in the supplier countries themselves, rather than dictated by the great Western powers. Time — and the CSR job market — will tell.