For accountability purposes and to keep steering and guiding the sustainability achievements of the organization, you need information. The CSR manager needs to ensure this information is reliable, useful and relevant. The monitoring role of the CSR manager includes monitoring and evaluating (applications of) the sustainability strategy and policies; setting up internal audits; developing standards, instruments and procedures for sustainable activities; and establishing internal measurement methodologies. In this role, the CSR manager also contributes to the sustainability content of the annual report or is responsible for a separate sustainability report. There are several relevant regulations, governance tools and guidelines available to fulfill this monitoring role.
To be a good monitor, a sustainability manager needs the competency of instrumental understanding. It requires strong analytical skills. The implementation of the monitoring role will differ from company to company. For example, in listed companies, there might be specific people assigned to the area of sustainability reporting. This role is often assigned to someone with either a financial or a communications background.
The most important task as a monitor is to collect information which helps to guide the sustainability strategy and with which the company can be accountable to its stakeholders. In order to do this, the CSR manager needs to collect and analyze relevant data. Data related to the sustainability performance, such as the CO2footprint or the lifecycle analyses. The chapter in the book about the monitor role highlights the importance of data and metrics for sustainability as well as the other important tasks for the monitoring role of the CSR manager.
Networking is a key component of the CSR/sustainability manager’s role. This means representing the CSR profession and your own CSR program at external events, or in external meetings like a stakeholder dialogue. You maintain relationships with external parties, you create connections and you recognize and shape collaboration opportunities. In addition, you build up a network of peers to meet up and learn from each other. And usually, you are responsible for the communications about the CSR results of your organization, which includes things like speaking engagements.
The networking role is indispensable for stakeholder engagement. The book ‘MVO doe je Zo’ outlines stakeholder engagement activities and explains the related roles and responsibilities a CSR manager can take, which of course are highly dependent on how the organization organizes its stakeholder engagement. This includes collecting and structuring relevant information from existing stakeholder relationships and organizing engagement from other sustainability-related stakeholders.
As sustainability manager, you are responsible for the development of a sustainability strategy and (partially) for integrating this strategy into the overall strategy of the organization. You build sustainable business models and initiatives. Due to this strategic part of the role, you are viewed as a relevant business partner within and outside of the company.
An important task in the strategic role of the sustainability manager is creating a sustainable vision and mission and embedding this in the overall strategy. The book ‘MVO doe je Zo’ explores how CSR managers can take on this role. It also highlights how having a vision and mission on sustainability advances the integration of sustainability in the organization; and with that the role and influence of the sustainability manager. Conversely, the scope of the strategic role is determined by the space you get within the organization to exert influence. Many sustainability managers that are new to the role, indicate the strategic role is challenging for them. For example, because senior leadership does not (yet) regard the position as such.
The Coordinator and Initiator
An important task of the CSR manager is to support the organization and its different departments by initiating and integrating sustainability into the business. This is the coordinating and initiating role. You are aware of the changes sparked by the sustainability strategy. You organize, manage, coordinate and facilitate people, processes, change and projects to deliver on the strategy. The true responsibility for implementation and achievement of the sustainability goals, however, is with those department and people themselves. In the coordinating role, the CSR manager supports and coaches when the performance and the anchoring of the sustainability strategy lag behind.
In the coordinating and initiating role the CSR manager needs a deep understanding of how the company is organized, so you can anchor sustainability in the structure and systems. It is important to visualize, understand and analyze how the company works. Only with insight into the company’s core processes and the cohesion across them, you can optimally translate and adjust the CSR strategy for the organization. In addition, you need to be aware of systems inside and outside of the organization, such as the supply chain. And you need to be aware what needs to happen to change the systems.
Translating the vision and mission to a plan or strategic framework is one way to initiate more sustainable business practices. This plan or framework supports relevant departments to develop their own plans to achieve the CSR goals. One of the core activities in this role is to craft a CSR plan and to anchor this within the organization.
The chapter in the book about the coordinator and initiator role highlights the tasks related to translating the vision and mission into a CSR plan or a strategic framework to integrate sustainability into the organization. In addition, it covers how to structure the sustainability efforts to best support the company in this process and it provides examples of initiatives undertaken to achieve sustainable change in a company’s systems.
The Stimulator and Connector
The sustainability professional is an ambassador for the field of sustainability. His or her personal ideals and ways of working are based on sustainability principles. In that way he or she motivates, stimulates, inspires and activates others to integrate sustainability objectives into their roles. The sustainability manager builds bridges between the outside and the inside. He or she connects things in ways to speed up more sustainable business practices. The sustainability manager usually achieves this without formal authority on the tasks of others, so he or she has to generate support for change towards a more sustainable organization in different ways.
Generating support is crucial for the sustainability manager’s success. Sustainable business is all about changing people and their behaviors. One of the key questions raised by sustainability managers is “How do I create support for sustainability with employees and the board?” A double-edged challenge, as to generate support from employees, senior management commitment is crucial. The chapter in the book about stimulator and connector role addresses this question through tips and insights.
The CSR manager spends the majority of time advising, informing and training employees, to empower them to reach the sustainability goals that are part of their tasks and role. The CSR manager becomes a mentor: gathering information and ensuring people are informed about the relevance of sustainability to their role and part of the organization. As most employees are best able to assess how to integrate sustainability into their tasks or function, the mentoring role of the CSR manager is to empower the other, for example through offering support and coaching.
Many sustainability managers consider mentoring crucial for their role. As a mentor, it is crucial for you to know how to translate sustainability to different functions in the organization and what tools are available to you. You can only help people make their job and tasks more sustainable if you have some insight into their role. And when you can adjust your ‘style’ in a number of ways to different situations and people. The chapter in the book about the mentor role addresses various ways to translate sustainability to different departments in the organization, and the role you can take in this as the sustainability manager.
A sustainability manager can play an important role in fueling innovation. As an innovator, the sustainability manager challenges others and him/herself to reconsider sustainable development. She or he shows leadership and courage, and is able to find and develop sustainable innovations with impact. Partnerships within the value chain are a key source of innovation, but there are other sources as well. By combining a cross-functional way of working with external orientation, the sustainability manager can drive innovation.
To be an ‘out of the box’ and ‘step-changing’ innovator, the innovator needs trust from the organization. You therefore are more likely to see a substantial innovation role for CSR managers in organizations which have already embedded sustainability or for CSR managers who have been in their organization for quite some time. In organizations just starting on their sustainability journey, innovation is focused more on embedding sustainability in the innovations process, in such a way that all innovations are sustainable or lead to sustainability related improvements. In companies without a strong innovation culture, the innovator role of the sustainability manager will consist of the establishment of a development process for sustainable innovations.
You could consider the initiation of a few (pilot) projects to make sustainability more tangible part of the innovator role. Through such iconic projects, sustainability becomes more visible and they offer the opportunity to communicate tangible results. But as these type of projects are really more related to embedding sustainability in the organization, they tend to belong primarily to the coordinating and initiating role of the sustainability manager.
The chapter in the book about the innovator role addresses the most important tasks of the innovator such as initiating and guiding innovation processes, so they can come to life and lead to a more sustainable business.