Deserted Island Corporate Social Responsibility Reading

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Are you tired of explaining to your friends, neighbors, the dudes next to you at the ballgame (or opera) what it is you do for a living in one sentence or less?

I am.

Last year I met someone at a cocktail party on the Chesapeake Bay who seemed earnestly willing to afford me elevator speech overtime as I explained my work. I was galvanized and eager to preach to the uninitiated; vernacular terms like multi-stakeholder engagement and KPIs starting flowing. My martini compatriot seemed swayed by my pitch about how NGOs and governments needed help from business to solve market failures like the fertilizer run-off in the Bay. Upon wrapping up my wonky, yet compelling banter I waited eagerly for a lively Q and A session.

“Oh, so your job is to make it easier for companies to pollute the Chesapeake Bay.”

Game, set and match. I hit the bar for another drink and considered telling the next person I met that I was a plumber.

But for those of you that do have colleagues, friends, or perhaps siblings and mentors who are interested in learning about theory behind CSR, The A-Z of Corporate Social Responsibility is an excellent start. The paperback edition is the latest update to the 2006 hardback version with additional content to address the role of CSR following the 2007 financial crisis.

No, I have not read the entire 470-page tome, but the book is designed to be used as a reference with an excellent table of contents and index of terms. There are three buckets of indexes:

  1. Terms Index: core terms at 2,000 words each (e.g., Accountability)
  2. Key terms: 500-700 words (e.g., Business Case)
  3. Definition Terms: 100-250 words (e.g., Carbon Credits)

There’s also a very helpful index to key CSR stakeholders, such as NGOs, standards organizations, think tanks, etc.

If you’re looking for a book that delivers HBS-style case studies, such as Andrew Winston’s Green to Gold, this is not the book for you. However, if there’s a more exhaustive CSR reference encylopoedia that can be a powerful resource for any CSR professional regardless of industry, I’d love to see it.

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