Corporate social responsibility is emerging as a huge issue for communication professionals, and one need look no further than the McDonald’s restaurant around the corner in Chinatown to find an example.
This semester, Art Stewart ’82 will show Emerson students how McDonald’s and other companies have dealt with significant CSR issues, including sustainability and environmental and social responsibility, through his Corporate and Social Responsibility: The Changing Context for Strategic Communicators class. He’s bringing a slate of guest speakers, including from the corporate trenches of Nike and Microsoft, to discuss the changing business climate that he says underscores the need for comprehensive and integrated communication strategies.
“To have an Emerson graduate out front on this issue, someone who’s writing a book about it and giving conferences on the subject, makes Emerson a leading-edge college by partnering with a leading-edge practitioner.”
Hurwitz and Stewart hope to open some of the guest-lectured classes to the student body to audit, because the issue reflects changes in society as a whole, from citizen journalism to environmental awareness.
“We’re seeing a once-in-a-generation transformation around issues of competency, integrity, transparency, and accountability in institutional leadership,” Stewart said.
“We are evolving to a new consciousness about these issues.”
McDonald’s, a perennial target for complaints about wasteful practices and what many see as corporate greed at the expense of public health, has emerged as a leader among companies transforming their public images as well as cleaning up their practices.
“You have to give them credit; they’ve really stepped up to the plate,” said Stewart, noting that the fast-food giant has divulged a wealth of information via websites, changed its relationship with franchisees, and worked to mitigate environmental impacts.
Soon, more companies will be compelled to make such changes. The Securities and Exchange Commission has indicated that it plans to require corporate disclosure related to environmental issues similar to existing corporate financial reporting.
“There is a boom coming for strategic communication professionals, and classes like this could equip students to seize opportunities with potential employers,” Stewart said. Many companies are also ramping up their corporate responsibilities to attract the best students as their employees, a nod to the current generation’s desire for meaningful careers that transcend simple measure like income, he said.