Corporate Social Responsibility

A question of ethics

For most graduates, the appeal of a potential employer will be affected by a variety of factors including such things as remuneration, opportunity for professional development, job security, travel and work that provides variety or a challenge. For an increasing number of graduates, an organisation’s reputation in and implementation of corporate responsibility and sustainability (“CSR”) practices is growing in significance, with many graduate recruiters tracking and incorporating this influence in their recruitment strategies.

Your turn

It’s valuable for job seekers to think through their views on the terms and concepts listed below. A clear understanding of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in any workplace will help you think broadly, innovatively and strategically.

It’s also worth clearly assessing your own values. What do you value? What impact would you like to make in your career? Which of the following CSR areas do you feel strongly about:

  • Environmental impact – direct or indirect, of an organisation’s operations, products or services.
  • Community/social impact – of an organisation’s projects, products, services or investments.
  • Workplace practices – including respectful and equitable treatment of employees in recruitment and selection; diversity and equal opportunity; work/life balance; professional development and progression; ethically managed redundancies.
  • Marketplace and business conduct – such as responsible behaviour in developing, purchasing, selling and marketing of products and services.
  • Ethical governance – from board level down, characterised by transparency; risk reporting; effective codes of conduct and compliance measures.

Will the level of care an organisation takes with the environment, employees, community, and the future influence your decision to work for them?

Terms you need to know

  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Refers to all aspects of corporate responsibility, community, social, environmental, and workplace governance. CSR practitioners talk about corporate â€?opportunity’ – highlighting the opportunity/risk dimension of responsible business practice.
  • ESG: A term commonly used in the investment industry referring to environmental, social and governance considerations to incorporate in investment decision making processes: responsible investment.
  • Triple Bottom Line Reporting: A framework for measuring an organisation’s performance against not just economic, but social and environmental parameters.
  • Sustainability: An organisation’s practices “…that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs…[and do] not compromise the environmental, social and human needs of our descendants.” (
  • Corporate Citizenship: An organisation’s commitment to CSR practices across its operations, from local to global.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Moving beyond short-term benefits for shareholders to long-term organisational implications for all stakeholders: shareholders, employees, customers, communities, environment, supply chain.
  • Enlightened Self-Interest: Recognition that an organisation’s long-term business interests require that it engages in CSR strategies and sustainable business practices.

How can you judge employers on these issues?

Will the level of care an organisation takes with the environment, employees, community, and the future influence your decision to work for them? The following guidelines can help and are also available to be downloaded in PDF format on this page.

  • REFLECT on the organisation you are looking at. What is its core business and how does it impact on the environment and the community? Are its products, processes and services in alignment with your own values?
  • RESEARCH the organisation’s website. Look for values/mission statements, sustainability reports and other measures and reporting. Are the CSR initiatives strategic and integrated? Is the organisation benchmarking itself using robust frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the UN Global Compact?
  • LOOK closely at workplace practices, taking note of gender mix, diversity and well-being policies, staff retention rates, staff community volunteering and professional development.
  • TALK to employers at careers fairs, employer events and even job interviews. Ask them questions; get the conversation going on these important issues. By asking questions about CSR, an organisation learns that this is an important driver in attracting new staff. It is also an opportunity for them to showcase their initiatives and receive some positive reinforcement.
  • KEEP INFORMED and put your well-developed research and analytical skills to good use! That doesn’t mean believing everything you read. Issues are complex and there are multiple perspectives, so try to be as informed as possible before making judgements.

Growth in occupations in corporate responsibility and sustainability

An increase in CSR functions within organisations has been driven by a range of factors including looming carbon pricing, consequences of an increased requirement for transparent and accountable governance (post-GFC), and a growing understanding of the necessity for stakeholder engagement. New roles are being created in workplace functions such carbon accounting, ESG investment decision making, community investment programs, sustainable procurement policies and employee diversity programs.

And finally…

Keep informed; put your well-developed research and analytical skills to good use! That doesn’t mean believing everything you read. Issues are complex and there are multiple perspectives, so try to be as informed as possible before making judgements.

(Rosemary Sainty is the Head, Secretariat, Global Compact Network Australia. She is also formerly the Manager, Careers and Employer Relations Office, Faculty of Economics and Business, at the University of Sydney and is the Founder of Career Ethics.)

Further Resources

Ethics and Employability

The world’s largest online directory of corporate non-financial reports. Includes CSR, sustainability, environmental and social reports.

 The UN Global Compact (UNGC)

The world’s largest corporate citizenship initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. View the Australian Network of the UNGC here:

The Hub of Responsible Business Practice in Australia

A national coordinated entry point drawing together key international and local initiatives to provide a HUB of Responsible Business Practice in Australia, with Federal Treasury support.

 The Australian SAM Sustainability Index (AuSSI)

Tracks industry leaders in corporate sustainability (part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index). Based on an assessment of economic, social and environmental criteria relevant to industry-specific criteria for managing sustainability portfolios.

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA)

Lists employers that have demonstrated policies and practices supporting women in the workplace.

The Australian Network On Disability (AND)

A not-for-profit organisation taking a leadership role in advancing employment for people with disability. The website lists member organisations.

The Corporate Responsibility Index

A rigorous voluntary self-assessment tool which measures the extent to which responsible business practice is integrated into corporate strategy and management.

Models of Success & Sustainability (MOSS)

An industry body for individuals and organisations interested in CSR and Sustainability in Australia.