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Guiding Trend 14 October Oct 2019 1228 14 October 2019

Profile of a professional: who CSR managers are, what they do and how to become one

Framing the role of people who deal with corporate social responsibility is not a simple task, not only because it is constantly evolving: empathy, diplomacy and versatility are key features. And the role is also ideal for those who have a humanities background

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What CSR manager are and what they do is not always easy to describe. In short, it is the figure that within a company brings together economic objectives with the contribution that the company can make to the community, the territory and all stakeholders. A more analytical definition was given by Inapp in two studies on corporate social responsibility in Italy and a survey of skills of the CSR manager. Beyond the data and percentages, however, are the personal paths and experiences of those who, with a “flexible obstinacy”, have introduced sustainability and inclusion in the companies where they work.

Francesca Magliulo, head of sustainability and CSR of the sustainability, institutional affairs and regulation division of Edison, who has formally held the role since 2009, confirms this. «I work with a small team of three who can take advantage of the collaboration of an internal sustainability network of 30 colleagues», she explains, «everyone in a different Edison office help us facilitate the introduction of different projects.”

From energy transition to commercial supply, through reporting and territorial budgets, secondary engagement at national, local and internal level as well as relations with various trade associations, think tanks, schools and universities, sport and volunteering and social inclusion policies. In short, a very wide and widespread network of subjects and interlocutors with whom «patience, empathy and a little psychology is needed»​. As Magliulo often repeats, «sustainability projects very often require a strong cultural change that clashes with natural resistance. The important thing is to understand who is in front of you, their doubts and their misgivings. Very often a no is never an absolute no, but rather it is at that time, for that way in which the project was presented. You have to have the ability to get back on your feet and recalibrate the proposal».

Cross-cutting skills and sensitivities are essential to play a role that, in Italy, is starting to increasingly take hold

An approach that also applies to Karim Bruneo, CSR manager at Whirpool, for whom «diplomacy, listening skills and adaptation in addition to the versatility which helps to descend into the different corporate and functional realities» are the necessary features to cover role. It’s his job to implement a new strategy for the EMEA region, which aims to meet the needs of community representatives and cross-reference the results with public policies in order to narrow down the areas of intervention. «These include: the fight against food waste, the right to access food and the promotion of sustainable and accessible housing solutions. Not surprisingly, among the latest initiatives launched is "Momenti da non sprecare – (A time to not waste)”, a playful-didactic project aimed at primary schools that promotes the social and environmental value of the fight against waste».

But what are the paths that lead professionals to fill the role of CSR managers? «I have a humanities background; I have a degree in Literature with a history major and a thesis on the history of industry. Specifically, I have delved into the industrial history of Montecatini. A topic that later, in 1998, put me in touch with Edison. Here I started from the basis, from checking the drafts of the environmental budget. In short, with hard work and determination I continued my passion for sustainability accompanied and flanked by very experienced people who shared with me their skills, especially on a technical level», says Magliulo. A career which follows the motto “never stop learning”, similar to Bruneo's experience: «I’m a graduate in Political Science and International Relations with a Master's degree in International Economics and Politics. Beyond socio-economic and political issues, fundamental to the trade, I had the chance to study topics that are purely related to sustainability and corporate responsibility: human rights, business ethics, economics applied to the environment and corporate governance».

For both, cross-skills and sensitivities are essential to play a role that, in Italy, is increasingly taking hold. Of course, there are also critical issues: «In my opinion–Bruneo says – the biggest difficulty is that often the profile “is internally hired”: although this is an advantage because of the knowledge of the company, on the other hand it often carries a lack of knowledge, even technical, essential for a CSR and sustainability professional». For Magliulo, on the other hand, in the face of a greater diffusion of the role, the greatest work is still the cultural one: «Apart from small excellences, there is still much work to be done. Sustainability is a theme that is still poorly regarded as strategic for the company. But I am positive: in the long run, sustainability is a source of competitiveness for a company».

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