Supporting the change-makers

Claudine Blamey, chair of the new Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (ICRS), explains how and why a group of volunteers created the UK's first professional body for everyone working in corporate responsibility and sustainability.

Back in the 80’s a small group of community affairs professionals working for major UK companies, including Marks & Spencer, Shell and Legal & General founded the Corporate Responsibility Group (CRG). It’s key purpose: to provide a peer network through which members could support each other in the new and growing field of corporate community investment.

Corporate responsibility and sustainability (CRS) has come a long way in 27 years, but what hasn’t changed is the need to support those practitioners working in the sector weather as a consultant or in-house in what can be an often challenging and sometimes lonely role.

In the UK alone there are now some 4,000 CRS practitioners and in the region of 25,000 people with a significant work-related interest in this area. These practitioners are the people guiding and advising the leaders of organisations large and small as they grapple with the issues defining our time: climate change, competition for natural resources, population growth and human rights to name but a few.

The idea of a professional body initially came from CRG members themselves. Although highly engaged and committed to their field, many members told us that they were uncertain about how to deepen their influence, develop their skills and advance their careers. Unlike their peers in other professions, they had no clearly defined career roadmap to follow and very little, if any, guidance on continuing professional development.

Supporting members to be brilliant

Thanks to our CRG members, we had our mission – to help CRS professionals to be brilliant in their work. Setting up a new professional body isn’t something to be entered into lightly and so as a board, we spent many months consulting with key stakeholders and talking to other professional bodies. We then spoke to companies who had expressed an interest in supporting us. The message from all quarters was clear: this was an idea whose time had come.

Thanks to the backing of our lead supporter, the City of London Corporation, seventeen founding supporters and a team of dedicated volunteers, we were able to formally launch the ICRS, the UK’s first professional body for everyone working in CRS, on 9 July 2014

Four months on and our numbers are growing week by week but it’s the feedback from our members that’s putting the biggest smiles on our faces.  Members love the sense of recognition and achievement they get through the application process and the fact that the competency framework provides a steer for career development. Our free webinar series is proving to be a hit and by popular demand we’ll be hosting a members drinks evening in November so that we can meet as a community and get to know each other.

CRS practitioners are playing a key and defining role in facilitating the change to more responsible and sustainable ways of doing business.  Our role is to support them.

Claudine Blamey is the chair of ICRS, which has been established to meet a need expressed by many sustainability professionals for establishing standards, developing a code of conduct and creating learning and development opportunities which allow best practice to be shared. Find out more at

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