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United we stand, divided we fall: Building successful relationships in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability

Szilvia Mosonyi presented the results from her in-depth study, ‘United we stand, divided we fall: Building successful relationships in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability’

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PhD Fellow, Szilvia Mosonyi presented the results from her in-depth study, ‘United we stand, divided we fall: Building successful relationships in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability’ at Cass Business School.

Her research aims to help people understand the tensions in managing relationships in the in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CR&S) field.

Laura Empson, Professor in the Management of Professional Service Firms and Director of the Centre for Professional Service opened the event, saying, “We are excited by the work Szilvia is doing.”  

Mosonyi conducted 44 interviews focused on in-house professionals and consultants in the CR&S field. The report presented three key themes:

Theme 1: Distinctiveness

CR&S is not just another management fashion. It sits at the intersection of business and society. Professionals see themselves as working in an ambiguous field with a multidisciplinary subject that is still not mainstream. This distinctiveness results in very particular tensions and requires bespoke resolutions.

“We do not yet have readymade templates or frameworks,” said Mosonyi. “As a profession, it is still an emerging and niche field in comparison to other areas of consultancy. This makes it distinct in three ways: as a field of industry, in the types of projects undertaken and the individuals who work within the area.”

Theme 2: Honesty

Both in-house and consulting professionals identify honesty as the most important factor that influences client/consultant relationships. Both sides are passionate, but constrained by organisational factors, and yet they have to remain authentic despite these constraints.

Monsonyi said, “Imagine a CR&S consultant is a like a swan gliding peacefully across a lake. We all know that beneath the water’s surface, the swan is swimming energetically… clients want to see that action."

Theme 3: Insecurity

“In its current form, this industry did not exist twenty years ago,” said Mosonyi. She added that there was insecurity among in-house and consulting professionals and that while the profession is relatively new and still forming, the status of its professionals was constantly being negotiated.

The presentation was followed by a panel discussion led by, renowned journalist and Cass Visiting Professor, Stefan Stern and featuring Sir Ian Cheshire, sustainability leader and Chairman of Debenhams, and Jean-Pascal Gond, Professor of Corporate Social Responsibility at Cass Business School.

Sir Ian Cheshire, said, “Unfortunately, CSR can become divorced from an organisation if it becomes just another department down the hall and becomes nothing more than an afterthought. Therefore, CSR consultancy must be fit for purpose and clear on where it adds value to an organisation, which is highlighted in this report.”

The event was jointly hosted by Ethos: The Centre for Responsible Enterprise and the Centre for Professional Service Firms.

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