Universities: The New CSR Frontier
“We have the best CSR practices in the sector. More than 2,400 small and medium-sized suppliers have been invited to participate in our “Value Program”, which aims to promote socially responsible practices so as to improve their productivity in a sustainable manner. In addition, our corporate tower was recertified by an Environmental Management System. Thanks to our team, we have created the Environmental Conservation Fund, which offers financial support to 6 research projects in biodiversity.”
When the manager finished his lecture, I asked him a simple question: “All right, but what about universities? I would like to know in what areas you are working with this stakeholder”. He did not offer any reasonable answer to me. At the end, he said that his organization is analyzing how to build a sustainable relationship with some academics.
Certainly, CSR is still a nebulous concept to many people out there in the mining and exploration industry, and it needs more press.
Even more, according to a Canadian geologist student, CSR is not even mentioned to his classmates, even when they enter the industry, and years later they may be making many important CSR decisions as project managers and even CEO’s.
Certainly, the lack of specific training is clear around the world, and companies have had trouble in order to reach right candidates at least it was evident in the last Manpower survey, in July. After interviewing more than 39,000 employers across 39 countries and territories, the study revealed that one in three employers struggle to fill key jobs. This is happening in Japan (80%), India (67%), Brazil (57%), Australia (54%) and Taiwan (54%). Problems related to hiring the right candidates are common in Canada as well. The survey showed 21% in 2010, and, problems connected with hiring the right people rose 8 points, in other words, 29% for this year.
The fact that companies cited lack of skills and experience as a reason for the shortage of talent should be a wake-up call for the education system. The tradition of universities over the past few generations has been to be reactive rather than proactive.
The growing importance of CSR in the business world is clear. But is CSR important to educational institutions? How should an institution such as a university practice CSR? By a response from universities, I do not mean CSR research by faculty members, but rather the way in which a university addresses the concerns of myriad stakeholders with respect to CSR.
Universities can choose to be followers, or they can seize the opportunity to be leaders and adopt CSR a vital aspect of their competitive advantage. First, universities should promote a true culture of CSR throughout their organizations. Second, they should develop social marketing actions in order to better communicate and interact with stakeholders. The development of a vibrant CSR culture will foster the build-up of human and social capital with the organization.
An important group of university stakeholders are corporate supporters of a university. These businesses that provide financial and strategic support to a university are increasingly acclimatized to working with CSR concerns. They will benefit from an alignment of a university strategy that reflects their own concerns.
Universities have an opportunity to embrace the concerns of their stakeholders, such as students and business supporters, and to lead in responding in the realm of practising and communicating CSR. Universities realize that it is a competitive market in terms of creating an ongoing stream of satisfied alumni, attracting new students and addressing the concerns of business supporters-a strategy which incorporates CSR is a start.