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The Truth Will Out: CSR is a Profession

CSRHUB | Friday July 13th, 2012 | 0 Comments

The following post is part of a CSRHub series focusing on 10 trends that are driving corporate transparency and disclosure in the coming year. To follow the discussion of each trend, watch for posts on the CSRHub blog every week. 

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By Bahar Gidwani and Sally Bell

How many U.S. companies do you think have positions that include the word “sustainability” in their job title? Would you guess 100? 1,000? According to ZoomInfo, the answer is 12,660. This statistic proves that sustainability jobs exist, but does not necessarily prove that there is an established career path within the sustainability profession.

Almost every time we speak at a conference or seminar, at least one young person will come up afterwards to ask if we can help them find a career opportunity in sustainability. Schools such as the University of Michigan Erb Institute, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Massachusetts, Boston University, Rutgers and Bainbridge Graduate Institute all have programs and degree opportunities in sustainability and social responsibility practices. People want to do sustainability work and are willing to pay to be trained in the area – are there jobs out there waiting for them?

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability data to corporate managers, researchers and consumers. Thousands of users work at corporations. However, we cannot determine how many of these corporate users have titles that mark them as involved in things like “sustainability,” “social responsibility,” “corporate responsibility,” “stakeholder engagement” or “employee engagement.” We assume that sustainability work is being done at various organizational levels and that it is not necessarily title-dependent.

The US government census bureau does not yet track careers in sustainability. Our friends at Greenbiz have done research on the area and we recommend their job board along with idealist.org  However, we decided to look a little deeper for concrete evidence of sustainability jobs, if we could find it.

It turns out that two publicly available, crowd-sourced databases and one private, professionally managed one have encouraging stats. At last count, Jigsaw has collected data on 33,305,868 people and 4,191,828 companies. Zoominfo claims 50,000,000 profiles for people who work at 5,000,000 companies. Revere Data uses a team of analysts to cull data from both public and private sources on 6,200 public companies and reports on the titles and roles of their senior management teams.

We searched the US portion of each of these databases for job titles that contained sustainability-related words. As you can see, each source showed a large number of people with “sustainability” in their title, with Zoominfo having the largest number of entries and the most conservative (and certainly extremely accurate) Revere Data showing only 316 titles. All three sources also had the other keywords in their data, but in smaller numbers.

Unfortunately, the fact that there are jobs in sustainability does not prove that a person can pursue a long-term career in the area. Graduates with degrees in sustainability may be trained for jobs that don’t yet exist. The availability of sustainability jobs may depend on the industry and the relative robustness of a company’s CSR effort or its profitability.

We suspect that success in a “sustainability area” job may often lead to promotion into another part of a company’s operation. We know from anecdotal discussions with our users that many of them arrived in their sustainability-related role after a promotion from a different, non-sustainability-related area. The figures below showing sustainability jobs by level (from Jigsaw) support this. As you can see, there are fewer director and above titles associated with sustainability as a percentage of all jobs than there are for a better-established career path such as corporate communications.

The fact that those who are trained in sustainability advance into roles in supply chain management, employee relations, brand management and corporate strategy is not necessarily a bad thing for CSR careers. In fact, it may be a holistic way to build awareness of the benefits of sustainability throughout a company’s operations. We advise new sustainability-area graduates to look beyond titles and look at the roles they will be asked to play. Sustainability can be integrated into any business area in a company that has the right culture.


Bahar Gidwani is a Co-founder and CEO of CSRHub. Formerly, he was the CEO of New York-based Index Stock Imagery, Inc, from 1991 through its sale in 2006. He has built and run large technology-based businesses and has experience building a multi-million visitor Web site. Bahar holds a CFA, was a partner at Kidder, Peabody & Co., and worked at McKinsey & Co. Bahar has consulted to both large companies such as Citibank, GE, and Acxiom and a number of smaller software and web-based companies. He has an MBA (Baker Scholar) from Harvard Business School and a BS in Astronomy and Physics (magna cum laude) from Amherst College. Bahar races sailboats, plays competitive bridge, and is based in New York City.

Sally Bell is in charge of direct sales and business developmentSally is committed to cultivating passion, purpose and performance to create enduring and positive change. Sally is expanding our site license program and subscriber base while expanding our partners and network. Sally is also founder of her own consulting practice, Apiary Strategy Consulting, which focuses on people and team engagement within CSR. She earned her MBA in Sustainable Business + Systems Thinking from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute. In Oregon, Sally serves as a board member for the Portland Professionals Net Impact Chapter as well as Portland Family Homeless Solutions. She is an avid reader, dancer, aspiring musician, vintage collector and lover of exploring the winter backcountry. She aspires to help drive systemic world change through collaboration, listening and understanding.


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