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August 10, 2011
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Home » Dilemmas – The Core of Corporate Responsibility

Traditionally the role of the CR practitioner includes components of marketing (customer engagement, product stewardship), of HR (diversity, employee engagement), of investor relations, of operational management (environmental management), of PR (communications). 

So with such a broad remit of involvement, what captures the essence of the CR practitioners role?

I think that at the core of the CR practitioners role sit dilemmas. The foundational dilemma that captures  corporate responsibility (as opposed to a sustainability role in a non-profit or in government),   is the tension that sometimes exists between profit and delivering societal and environmental benefit.
The field is also rich with dilemmas within and between CR realms.  Within the environmental realm for example, whether to have a simple absolute  target for CO2 reduction or a more sophisticated, but harder to articulate intensity target (one I grapple with !);  should you have a target at all if half your stakeholders don’t think climate change is man made; are offsets a sustainable way to deliver carbon reduction ?
Within the civil society sphere there are of course a host of dilemmas over how best to alleviate poverty, improve health etc etc.    In the ICT sector we think a lot about the right balance between freedom of speech and protection of the vulnerable, and between privacy and security.
And most interesting to me are the dilemmas between realms of CR.    Where do you draw the line between retaining jobs vs reducing carbon (if they do indeed conflict), between building a thriving economy and the sustainability downsides of consumerism, between water as a low carbon source for temperature control and water scarcity.
It seems to me that dilemmas are really at the crux of being a CR practitioner. We must be able to articulate them as dilemmas and recognize there are not always clear right and wrongs. Rather there are balanced decisions that need to be made and continually reviewed. Delivering programs is an important part of the CR role, but they don’t distinguish it as a profession.  To me, dilemmas and how we address them is the indication of a well embedded corporate responsibility approach and an evolving profession. 

To read more by Kevin Moss, visit his blog CSR Perspective.

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