The CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibility, Manager reconciles the company’s economic objectives with the contribution it can make to the community, the territory and all stakeholders involved. This company figure brings the culture of sustainability into the company, and oversees the latter’s social responsibility.
A regular presence in companies in the United States and northern Europe, Italian firms especially large enterprises, multinationals and companies listed on the Stock Exchange are now also starting to appoint an internal CSR Manager. And the trend is slowly being taken up by midsize businesses as well.
So, who is the CSR Manager, and what does he do? What skills are required for this position? Inapp (formerly Isfol), after having produced two studies on corporate social responsibility in Italy, has recently conducted a survey, still in the process of being published, on the competences of the CSR Manager. “The survey was conducted with the involvement of expert managers and key players", says Paola Nicoletti, the Inapp researcher who drew up the survey, anticipating some of its contents. "In this way, we were able to map the competences of the CSR Manager, so as to create a standard profile and plan subsequent training".
The competences of the CSR Manager are split into two types: vertical and horizontal. “Vertical competences relate to the individual’s managerial and technical skills, ranging from organisation to leadership," explains Ms Nicoletti. “Horizontal competencies, instead, relate to social and soft skills, that is, relational and communication abilities". The CSR Manager must combine all of these skills. “It is a complex and multifaceted role," continues Ms Nicoletti, "which reconciles ordinary business management with a strong innovative drive, so as to lead the company towards change by anticipating trends and seizing new business opportunities. The CSR Manager is basically an innovator."
According to a study by the CSR Manager Network, to date 79% of Italian CSR Managers are sourced from within the company, from its Communications Department (20.8%), from Investor Relations (12.5%), from Internal Audit (12.5%) or from the HSE and Quality Departments (12.5%). The same survey lists some typical duties: the CSR Manager handles reporting and rating, supports various sales and marketing activities, and liaises with stakeholders. Many CSR Managers (65%) have studied economics, but a significant percentage has a background in humanities and sociology (about 25%).
As the Inapp mapping reveals, a CSR Manager must be thoroughly familiar with the business, but must also be able to manage conflict and liaise with the community and the institutions, as well as motivating and promoting the work team. At the same time, he must have good organisational skills, a thorough understanding of economic and legal issues, and a strong ability to anticipate, while also managing the sustainability and ethical performance of the business. “The CSR Manager must know the company inside out," continues Ms Nicoletti, "because it is a cross-sectional figure that operates across the board". This is a “multitasking figure", with a significant capacity to listen, both within and outside the company, and then to act.
“Training this kind of figure is becoming increasingly pivotal," concludes Ms Nicoletti. Although it is early days for Italy, more and more companies will seek to employ a CSR Manager going forward, thus creating new employment opportunities.