Net Impact Soap Box

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Student's Perspective on... Student Perspectives

This past Tuesday, a group of second-year MBA students shared their experiences working in CSR-focused summer internships. Jo Mackness, the new Executive Director of Haas’ Center for Reponsible Business, provided her perspective as well.

One interesting trend Jo mentioned is that CSR is becoming increasingly integrated at many companies: rather than having a “CSR Department”, employees are asked to take social issues into consideration when formulating their strategy. Karen Salvini, who spent the summer working on environmental issues at a large tech firm, found the attitude was that “every job is an eco-job.” Justin Parker worked with a large chemical company on a large-scale development plan in India. Instead of “corporate philanthropy”, where a company puts in a one-time investment, this plan will create a financially viable business, providing much greater long-term impact. To me, the model of creating a financially viable business that also helps people has tremendous potential- if you’re similarly inclined, check out The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by CK Prahalad.

As someone who shared the skepticism many of us have about business’ commitment to social ventures, it was encouraging to hear there are companies with such strong commitments. There is still a need and place for foundations, however. Charlene Chen worked in business development in Ghana through Good Morning Africa, which provides support for social entrepreneurs. Wellesley Fraser helped education reform in America with Education Pioneers. For those interested in socially responsible business, there are real opportunities around the world, in a variety of capacities, which is pretty exciting. I'm hopeful that as the country and the world deal with the current financial turmoil, companies don't lose track of the importance of CSR.

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