For most graduates, the appeal of a potential employer will be affected by a variety of factors, such as size, location, employee conditions and the organisation’s market position. For an increasing number of graduates, an organisation’s corporate ethics is also significant.
It is valuable for job seekers to think through their views on the concepts listed below. A clear understanding of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in any workplace will help you think broadly, innovatively and strategically. It is also worth clearly assessing your own values. What do you value? What impact would you like to make in your career? Which of the following CSR areas do you feel strongly about?:
- Environmental impact, direct or indirect, of an organisation’s operations, products or services.
- Community/social impact of an organisation’s projects, products, services or investments.
- Workplace practices including respectful and equitable treatment of employees in recruitment and selection; diversity and equal opportunity; work/life balance; professional development and progression; ethically managed redundancies.
- Marketplace and business conduct, such as responsible behaviour in developing, purchasing, selling and marketing of products and services.
- Ethical governance from board level down, characterised by transparency; risk reporting; effective codes of conduct and compliance measures.
- Will the level of care an organisation takes with the environment, employees, community, and the future influence your decision to work for them?
Terms you need to know
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR):
Refers to all aspects of corporate responsibility, community, social, environmental, and workplace governance. CSR practitioners talk about corporate ‘opportunity’ – highlighting the opportunity/risk dimension of responsible business practice.
Triple Bottom Line Reporting:
A framework for measuring an organisation’s performance against not just economic, but social and environmental parameters.
An organisation’s practices “… that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs…[and do] not compromise the environmental, social and human needs of our descendants.” (www.wbcsd.org)
An organisation’s commitment to CSR practices across its operations, from local to global.
Moving beyond short-term benefits for shareholders to long-term organisational implications for all stakeholders: shareholders, employees, customers, communities, environment, supply chain.
Recognition that an organisation’s long-term business interests require that it engages in CSR strategies and sustainable business practices.
How can you judge employers on these issues?
REFLECT on the organisation you are looking at. What is its core business and how does it impact on the environment and the community? Are its products, processes and services in alignment with your own values?
RESEARCH the organisation’s website. Look for values/mission statements, annual reports and other measures and reporting. Are the CSR initiatives strategic and integrated? Is the organisation benchmarking itself using robust frameworks such as the Corporate Responsibility Index and the Global Reporting Initiative?
LOOK closely at workplace practices, taking note of gender mix, diversity policies, staff retention rates, staff community volunteering and professional development.
TALK to employers at careers fairs, employer events and even job interviews. Ask them questions; get the conversation going on these important issues. By asking questions about CSR, an organisation learns that this is an important driver in attracting new staff. It is also an opportunity for them to showcase their initiatives and receive some positive reinforcement.
Keep informed; put your well-developed research and analytical skills to good use! That doesn’t mean believing everything you read. Issues are complex and there are multiple perspectives, so try to be as informed as possible before making judgements.
The Corporate Responsibility Index is a rigorous voluntary self-assessment tool which measures the extent to which responsible business practice is integrated into corporate strategy and management.
Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) lists employers that have demonstrated policies and practices supporting women in the workplace.
The Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes serve as benchmarks for investors who integrate sustainability considerations into their portfolios, and provide an effective engagement platform for companies who want to adopt sustainable best practices.
Models of Success & Sustainability (MOSS) is an industry body for individuals and organisations interested in CSR and sustainability in Australia.
The Australian Network On Disability (AND) is a not-for-profit organisation taking a leadership role in advancing employment for people with disability. The website lists member organisations.
CorporateRegister.com is the world’s largest online directory of corporate non-financial reports. Includes CSR, sustainability, environmental and social reports.
By Rosemary Sainty, Manager, Careers and Employer Relations Office, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Sydney and Founder, Career Ethics. The article is based on the project “Ethics and Graduate Recruitment” which was awarded an Innovations Grant by the National Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (NAGCAS).