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academy idea gets backing

May 2003

The prospect of the UK government establishing a corporate social responsibility academy moved a step closer last month when a ministerial working group strongly supported the idea.

The group, which was assembled by CSR minister Stephen Timms, has concluded that an academy could have a ‘major role to play in promoting a leap forward in CSR in the UK’ by co-ordinating education and training in the field.

Its report to the minister says the main tasks of an academy would be to work with existing bodies to improve CSR education and training, help managers arrange ‘experiential learning opportunities’ such as secondments, and possibly devise or offer courses itself.

The working group, which consulted 450 people in the field, also says the academy could:

advise companies on in-house CSR education and training

run a website listing courses, conferences and other ‘learning opportunities’

provide assessors for courses

help inform government strategy to promote CSR.

It says the academy should be a ‘new and independent’ body, and not simply part of an existing organization, and should initially have five staff and a multi-stakeholder board.

Timms, who will formally respond before 17 July, has suggested the academy may need to rely on funding from business. The report, though, argues that the government should pay both start-up and running costs.

The working group, chaired by former Camelot CSR director Sue Slipman, says that although CSR training has grown rapidly over the past five years, it is still ‘patchy and unstructured’.

A survey of senior executives in the CSR field carried out by the group found that two-thirds felt there was a need for a professional institution to develop and maintain CSR skills, and that around the same proportion believed there were insufficient relevant training and development opportunities.

It showed that the most common ways of developing CSR skills and knowledge were through informal channels such as ‘keeping up to date with reading’, which was cited by 65 of the 68 executives who responded, rather than external training programmes or workshops (cited by 44).

Half of the executives who responded said it was not easy to find out what CSR training was available.

The group has developed ‘a competency framework’ outlining the core skills CSR managers should exhibit. It says training and education should furnish them with the ability to build partnerships with a wide range of groups, question the ‘business as usual approach’, foster stakeholder relationships, provide strategic vision and respect diversity.




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