Interview: The Life of a CSR Professional

tyler-franta-589346-unsplash.jpg

Have you ever thought about working as a CSR professional in Nigeria? Chukwuweta Uraih talks to me about what that entails! CSR means Corporate Social Responsibility. This is usually one of the first things a company focuses on when they start being socially & environmentally conscious.

A company would employ a CSR professional to plan and execute initiatives geared towards improving its environmental and social impacts. But as such concepts are relatively new in the corporate world, it stands to reason that the CSR professional is also not mature. Many people are not sure what the role entails. In fact, not much study has been done on it, but a 2014 study in Canada revealed that more than half of the surveyed CSR professionals didn’t know what they needed to know to perform their work well.

So let’s bring this home. What do you need to know if you’re interested in the profession? CSR professional, Chukwuweta Uraih shares with us about this! Chukwuweta is a CSR professional in the environmental sector. He has nearly a decade of experience implementing developmental and sustainability initiatives within the consulting, telecommunications and environmental sectors. So we’ve got a few good questions for him:

What do most organisations expect a CSR professional to achieve for them?

Like you earlier mentioned, organisations are increasingly realizing the importance of driving Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability initiatives within their operating communities. They have seen the impact that is created from a reputational perspective and are gradually understanding the link between being responsible and driving business growth.

But to answer your question, I think organisations in this part of the world (and from experience) expect CSR professionals to drive and sustain their reputation through the implementation of strategic and sustainable social interventions within and around their operational communities. They are also sometimes required to communicate these interventions to respective stakeholders using innovative and compelling narratives.

Describe what a typical month is like for a CSR professional in a particular industry

That's an interesting question. My current industry is quite dynamic to say the least! So, no month will be the same as the other. But what remains constant is the need to drive strategic internal and external CSR interventions. Our interventions are also heavily influenced by our core operations within our host communities. As a result, we are heavily invested in environmental education and tactical efforts to improve on sanitation and health outcomes.

But to be more specific, through strategic community engagements, I ensure the implementation of our flagship initiative and other strategic CSR programmes.

What challenges do you face the most in your line of work?

I think if I start to list them all, I may exceed my thread limit! Seriously speaking though, the fact that the industry I work in is dynamic and never static, is challenging alone. However, that makes it very exciting! What I appreciate, however, is the unique skills across teams I must deal with to get the work done.

What are the most fulfilling parts of your work as a CSR manager?

The simple fact that we have set ambitious targets as an organization and have been fortunate to achieve them despite operational challenges is one of the most fulfilling parts as a CSR professional. For instance, we have a target to reach 10,000 public school students under our environmental education programme and are confident we will exceed this target by year end.

What skills would a CSR professional need to be successful?

As a CSR professional, you would need to possess project management and communication skills as they are required in developing strategies both internally and externally and for driving compelling narratives to your stakeholders.

However, a more important skill required is the ability to report impact and understand analysis and metrics while measuring targets to ensure your organisation’s progress on its social investments. I also don’t think these skills happen overnight though. Just like any sort of career path, it takes a good amount of time to harness. So I would say you remain patient and enjoy the process of learning (and unlearning).

How can interested people get into the CSR manager line of work?

Anyone interested in CSR/Sustainability or Development, in general, should start off understanding their respective concepts and explore local organizations they could volunteer or intern with. I started off volunteering with local non-profits and eventually got recruited at a consultancy that drives CSR advocacy and awareness (and they say the rest is history…) Another approach is to find (a) mentor(s) you admire and can guide you accordingly. All in all, I strongly believe, you must have the passion if you want to excel in this line work.

Thank you so much for your insights Chukwuweta! We hope that others have a bit more awareness about the CSR profession and how they can work in the sector.

Interview held via Tweet Chat

Photo by Tyler Franta on Unsplash