Thanksgiving: A Time to think about Corporate Social Responsibility

Being a transfer student in Haas, I was initially overwhelmed by the disjunction between a community college and a four-year institution. My initial perception of college life involved a small community where I can easily encounter peers and acquaintances in every corner of the campus. This view was radically shifted on my first day in Cal. The large size of the campus astonished me at first, but after observing my surroundings and opening up to the multitude of opportunities offered to me, I started to fully maximize the resources provided by this prestigious public university. Visiting the Career Center, editing my resume, checking Callisto and networking became a part of a multistep routine in my weekly schedule.

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My name is Sofia, and I’m currently an undergraduate student in UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Today, I will not be boring you with my other essential routines while adjusting to Cal, but I will instead be welcoming you to approach this festive season with a grateful heart and a discerning mind.

As we make arrangements for our Thanksgiving break this week, whether we’re going back home or embarking on a spontaneous trip to Mexico, remember to be thankful not only for our loved ones but also for the environment and society around us.

This is where Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) comes into place. CSR is an initiative by businesses to take responsibility for social welfare and environmental impacts.

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According to Jo Mackness, Executive Director in the Center for Responsible Business at Haas, Corporate Social Responsibility can also be defined as a “business strategy that leverages the core competences of a company to deliver both social and business value.”

So why should we assess social welfare and environmental impacts before making business decisions? Before thoughts of deadweight loss and negative externalities monopolize our mind, take a step back and ponder about the prevalent concerns that plague our society today. Mackness claims that aspects such as healthcare accessibility and climate change are evidences of how today’s society is on many unsustainable paths.

Being undergraduate students in Haas, we are potential future agents of change who can make a significant difference in how the next generation’s businesses operate — essentially working towards “redefining the business world”. For those of you looking to get a head start on building your knowledge of CSR beyond the classroom, Mackness suggests interning and working for a company whose values align with your own.

So why should you think about CSR during this festive season?

1. Phase II is currently happening or around the corner for most Haas undergraduates, and you still have time to enroll in CSR related courses for Spring 2014, such as UGBA 107 by Alan Ross and 192T by Kellie McElhaney. You can find information about all of them here: http://responsiblebusiness.haas.berkeley.edu/students/courses.html.

2. Refrain from wasting paper or printer ink by printing your lecture notes in the Enterprise Computing and Service Management (ECSM, in other words, the Haas computer lab). The semester is coming to an end and but most of you still have about $193.00 of printing credit. If you can minimize costs while increasing your allocative efficiency, why not?

3. If you have spare time during the break and would like to practice going “Beyond Yourself” even before you become an influential business leader/CEO/billionaire, volunteering during Thanksgiving could make a significant difference in the lives of strangers who are not as fortunate to have a gathering with family and friends. GLIDE Memorial Church, a church in San Francisco that was featured in the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” offers volunteering opportunities to serve meals for the homeless.

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4. Last but not least, I’m challenging you to think about habits and actions you can incorporate into your daily lives to support corporate social responsibility, such as buying products from firms that are reputable for their ethical values and community involvement projects — so that you know this Thanksgiving will be different, a one truly worth being thankful for, and a memorable one indeed.

Amy Dinh, Program Manager at the Center for Responsible Business, offered these invaluable resources for undergraduates to further develop an expertise in CSR.

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Courses: Strategic CSR and Projects (UGBA 192P), which serves as an introduction to the fields of corporate sustainability and CSR, is a great course to take for anyone interested in CSR. Although the course will not be offered until next year, it includes working on live consulting projects with companies like Nike, Disney, and Target.

Tip: Start including this in your two-year plan!

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On-campus resources: The Give Something Back Scholarship in Corporate Responsibility application has been reopened! The scholarship is aimed at underserved students at Haas who want to pursue CSR in their careers. Learn about it here http://responsiblebusiness.haas.berkeley.edu/students/scholarships.html and apply by the December 31st deadline at 11:59pm. For more information, please contact Amy Dinh at amy_dinh@haas.berkeley.edu

As for off-campus resources, there are tons of career resources!  A few of Amy’s favorites are:

– Net Impact’s Career Center for career guides, personal assessments and jobs database (https://netimpact.org/careers)

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– Idealist.org, a social impact jobs database

– The New Sector Alliance applications that recently opened up.

They have summer and yearlong fellowship programs training emerging leaders who are committed to social impact careers.  This is a good opportunity especially for Haas students since it emphasizes the use of business and consulting skills to create impact. December 20th is the Round 1 Deadline for Fellowship Applicants. (http://www.newsector.org/content/our-fellows-0)

– Taproot Foundation, which gets professionals to donate their expertise to nonprofits pro bono (http://www.taprootfoundation.org/)

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Last but not least, Amy emphasizes that regardless of what all of you are interested in and the types of occupations you are pursuing, there is always a way for you to have positive social impact through your business careers. Working in the CSR department or the nonprofit sector are not the only ways to contribute to CSR.

Step out of your comfort zone, do your research, and continuously “Question the Status Quo”.

Happy Thanks-giving!

Sofia Putri
Class of 2015

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