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The Times When I Hate CSR!

The Times when I Hate CSR!

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do…mostly. I believe with all my heart that companies need to step up to their responsibility when itihatecsrcomes to social and environmental issues. I think the world would be a much much better place if only more companies took this responsibility seriously and embraced the notion that profit maximization at all costs is not a sustainable business model. I believe all that and yet sometimes this whole CSR thing seems like such a charade. In times like these, I begin to question everything with the dreaded CSR Sustainability label. Take a look at some of these trigger points and tell me if that makes you feel icky too:

1. When I see Abercrombie & Fitch come up with this meaningless babble  in their CSR report, all the while selling push-up bikinis to 8 year olds:

“AF and our associates believe in supporting the communities where we do business. We are
Committed to being an exemplary citizen by giving back and making a positive impact in our Communities”

2. When a CSR job advertisement lists every possible skill and experience a human being could ever hope to achieve…simply because the companies don’t know what they really want. The requirements for CSR Sustainability roles are so varied and unrealistic that looking for a suitable person  seems like going on a wild goose chase in the middle of the Sahara desert with a snowsuit on!

3. When I see profiles on LinkedIn who have CSR as part of their skill set but nothing else on their profile suggests anything remotely similar. This makes LinkedIn a frustrating place to hunt for talent and even more  frustrating to make your own profile stand out among hordes of faux CSR professionals.

4. When I see companies mention compliance with laws as an achievement under the CSR tab on their websites. It is terribly off-putting to see you pretend like you are being gracious by complying with laws when actually failing to do so would land you in jail. Stop fooling me!

5. When I see people using this picture in every CSR related presentations. PLEASE.STOP.NOW.

6. When I see CSR leaders take the stage in CSR conferences and refer to the three recycling bins in their offices  as a CSR milestone. On that note, I hate the fact that conference speakers are selected based on their sponsorship. Tell me again, what are we promoting through these events?

7. The time in 2009 when I was presenting at a corporate meeting and the person who introduced me said “and now, Ms. Bushra Azhar will come and talk about CSR- Customer Service Relationship”. How do you even begin to explain what CSR means after that, without embarrassing everyone present? As you can see 4 years on and I still haven’t gotten over that.

8. When almost all BOD meetings put CSR as a separate agenda item (and not as part of the company strategy) often discussed towards the end of the meeting when half of the people are already asleep.


What are some of the moments you have experienced in your professional life that made you question your decision to be in the field?

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  1. Great article, Bushra! I recently wrote a similar article (http://responsabilitesocialeentreprise.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/vous-savez-que-vous-travaillez-dans-la-responsabilite-sociale-quand/), unfortunately in French. I will try to find some time to translate it, because it would provide good examples of those moments you mention!

    • Dear Julien

      Thanks for your comment and ohh I would love to read your piece and link it up from here. Do let me know plz if you decide to post it in English and I will do the needful.

      Thanks a bunch.


  2. WOW! You’re so right! I’ve worked on CSR for big companies for 5 years now… I’ve experienced points 4, 5 and 8… and I’d add this: The fact that in many cases “there’s no such thing as a bad social cause” makes it so hard to really manage CSR as a business area. In that, many meetings go on and on about how wonderfully humane anything labeled as CSR is and criticism is seen as politically incorrect.

    • Oh My Gawwdd Carl, so true. Don’t you just HATE the political incorrectness of “questioning” a CSR program??
      Thanks so much for dropping by, I feel less lonely :)

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