Having co-authored, with Nick Lakin, the 7th entry on the Cambridge University Sustainability Leadership Programme’s top sustainability books of 2010, together with over 10 years of hands-on business practice and consulting experience, Veronica Scheubel, former Senior Corporate Responsibility Manager at Nokia, is a superstar amongst experts in how to mastermind and execute ways for businesses to engage with the community. We asked her our 5 questions.
1. What was your inspiration for writing Corporate Community Involvement and what do you hope the book achieves or changes?
Nick and I noticed that between the two of us, we had written so many internal company manuals on how to practice Community Involvement from inside a company. Nick asked why nobody had ever thought of turning this into a book, so companies don’t have to re-invent the wheel. He convinced me that the two of us had to do that, so we set out to write our book. Working to a strict schedule, we got it done in 6 months. It helped that we had our previously written manuals to refer to, and that we had all our personal experience from managing global Community Involvement programs to draw on.
As with so many other aspects of corporate life, there are the visionaries, the early adopters, the early majority, the late majority and the laggards. What strikes me after more than 10 years of my own work in this area is that we still have players in every field! We have visionaries like IBM, early adopters like Nokia, many companies in the early majority, but shockingly many companies still in the late majority that are still dabbling in philanthropy and are only just discovering Community Involvement. And then of course, there are laggards that still claim Community Involvement is not relevant to them and that shareholder value is all that counts … The ‘early’ half encourages and enthuses me while the ‘late’ half creates the gap versus my expectations and shows me that there is still so much more work to do!
2. What is the most important message Corporate Community Involvement has to share on sustainability and CSR?
Quite a few people have contacted us to let us know that they found the book really useful, particularly the chapters on strategy, employee involvement and how to operate as a company-internal change agent. The most important messages in the book for succeeding in community involvement are: be strategic and contribute your company’s core competencies, engage in real cross-sector partnerships in the community, and involve key functions in the company as well as employee volunteers.
3. What are your favourite books on sustainability/CSR? And what are your favourite books ever?
Favourite CSR Book: Adrian Hodges’ and David Grayson’s Everybody’s Business, as it was the first book to educate the world about CSR.
4. What do you think are the major challenges we face in advancing sustainability/CSR – now, and in the next 10 years?
The world is changing, and participative approaches within organizations as well as with stakeholders will become increasingly important and unavoidable. This is where I see a focus of my work – I’d like to support people in organizations, who might be used to the ‘old ways’ and perhaps a bit unused to and afraid of ‘sharing power’, in familiarizing themselves with new concepts, trying them out and experimenting with them. As a facilitator, I can help create a ‘safe environment’ for that.
5. What are you working on now?
A few colleagues and I are really passionate about the opportunities of bringing organizational change consultants together with Sustainability Managers in companies, as we have experienced first-hand how much can be achieved for embedding Sustainability throughout an organization when both work together and pool their knowledge, resources and approaches. It is still a very new message out there, and we are a small cohort, but we’d like to spread the word and the practice, so there will have to be a book about it!
Corporate Community Involvement is a step-by-step guide to developing and implementing a comprehensive and successful approach to help managers “get there faster” and “get it right first time.” Limited offer: Order direct from Greenleaf and get 40% discount. Use voucher code cc12jun at checkout. Offer ends 30 June 2011.