Lessons from teaching corporate responsibility

I taught my first class tonight of the new CR module of the MSC Corporate Governance and Ethics at Birkbeck College, University of London.

It’s the second year I have taught it and the plan for 2010 is half way down this posting from a couple of weeks back.

I try to make it as interactive as possible and luckily have guest ‘speakers’ scheduled from JP Morgan, Boots, KPMG, Accenture, my own team at Ethical Corporation and my favourite NGO, AdvanceAid.

Tonight I was trying to cover a potted history of the corporate responsibility movement, dating from the 19th century to the present day.

If any readers would like a copy of the slides you can get them at this link on SlideShare.

I’d be interested in comments as to anything I might have missed.

I learned a valuable lesson about glib comments tonight.

I made an off-the-cuff remark about the effectiveness of a particular well known corporate responsibility initiative.

I think I’m right in what I said, broadly speaking, but I didn’t provide any evidence on that example.

Lo and behold, who happens to be in the class? An employee from that very initiative! This got a good laugh from the audience of MSC students when he mentioned this.

He, of course, objected to my comment.

I explained my position was based on conversations with sources I trust who know the area inside out but I still regretted the casualness of my original statement.

It re-inforced something I should have remembered: That in the world of corporate responsibility, you have to be careful what you say, and how you say it.

So much is in the eye of the beholder, and so much is still open to dispute (definitions of what constitutes meaningful progress for example) that one should consider words carefully.

One habit I seek to correct is the occasional offhand remark about something important. A lesson learned for next week.

Tonight’s lecture slides are also below: (the font is a bit small here, it’s bigger on the slideshare link above)


  1. Toby
    I enjoyed reading the slides. The line 'governments realise their limitations' struck me as very heavily loaded with assumptions. Maybe subject for a whole masterclass of its own

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  3. I just finished my MBA at UC Berkeley focusing in CSR and you would not believe how often this happened with speakers to our classes. I appreciate you sharing your slides.


  4. Toby,

    I am one of your MSc students, and I randomly found this blog!!! I just realised how "small" is the world of social responsibility….

    You are doing fine!!! I must that I love your class and way of teaching.
    Less academic (or just about enought) and good examples.

    cu next week

  5. Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

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