Quick reflexes a necessity for CSR directors, speaker says

Author: Ed Cohen

Quick reflexes a necessity for CSR directors, speaker says

If you want to become a vice president of corporate social responsibility and sustainability, you’d better prepare for “radical transparency,” David Stangis, Campbell Soup’s vice president of social responsibility and sustainability, told students at the University of Notre Dame on April 1.

Speaking at the Mendoza College of Business, Stangis said news involving a company already flashes around the world in a nanosecond, thanks to social media. The next revolution, he said, will involve product information.

Using their smart phones, consumers will be able to walk into a store, scan new-style 2D barcodes on labels, and learn how much water and energy went into making the product, how far it traveled, where it was made and by whom, he said.

“It’s not a matter of IF  that’s going to happen, it’s a matter of when that’s going to happen, and I guarantee it’s going to happen in the next 10 years,” said Stangis, appearing as part of the college’s Ten Years Hence speaker series.

The company executive devoted much of his talk to career opportunities in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability, a field that barely existed 10 years ago. Prior to joining Campbell Soup, he worked for Intel for 12 years. He was originally hired as a safety engineer and ended up creating the corporate responsibility function, he said.

Stangis said many business schools today have a CSR/sustainability track in their undergraduate or MBA programs. In the future, he predicted, the topics will be much more integrated into all coursework (as they already are at Notre Dame).

The change in education is necessary because of the reality business professionals face today, he said.  A finance expert might have to work on a renewable energy project with tax considerations, he said. Or a marketing specialist could end up preparing to market an eco-friendly product and need to know what can and cannot be said about the product.

Asked what competencies companies are looking for when they hire specialists in this field, Stangis mentioned broad-based knowledge and the ability to learn quickly.

“Being comfortable in one thing doesn’t work well in this job because it changes every day,” he said. “Every single day, I go to work there’s some issue that I have to become an expert at in one hour.”

Since Stangis joined Campbell Soup in 2008, the company has been named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes, the 100 Best Corporate Citizens List and as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. In 2008 he was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics by Ethisphere Magazine. 

The Ten Years Hence speaker series explores issues, ideas and trends likely to affect business and society over the next decade.  The series is sponsored by the O'Brien-Smith Leadership Program, made possible by a generous endowment from William H. O'Brien (ND '40) and his wife, Dee.

The O’Brien-Smith Program endowment provides an opportunity for students and faculty to interact with distinguished leaders from business, government and nonprofit sectors.

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