A Corporate Responsibility Mentor in Your Back Pocket

By: Samantha Johnston | July 16, 2012

If you've ever tried convincing your colleagues to do the right thing only to find blank and dubious stares looking back at you, you'll want to read Changing Business From the Inside Out: A Treehugger's Guide to Working in Corporations. Written by Net Impact board member Tim Mohin, the book is an ultra-practical how-to guide for any aspiring corporate responsibility (CR) professional.

Mohin isn't your typical corporate lifer; he earned his chops in environmental toxicology before moving to CR roles at Intel, Apple, and AMD. He has decades of experience tactfully steering corporations toward his treehugger goals (yes, he's taking back the word treehugger). Using real life examples, Mohin outlines the key traits a CR leader needs and provides thorough instructions on the job's essential functions - from running meetings where things actually get done to your first operations review with corporate execs.

Personal experiences add color and depth to Mohin's lessons;in one memorable example, he talks his way into a Chinese factory dormitory during a supplier audit. Many overseas factory owners aren't always generous with their tours, eyeing auditors with distrust. So Mohin took his time with the audit, letting it run late. When he conveniently found himself needing a place to crash, Mohin was offered a bed in the factory's worker dorms. There, he was able to get an inside look at where factory employees slept and, better still, interview them - all without ruffling the factory owners' feathers.

Some of Mohin's key tips for being an effective corporate treehugger:

Avoid feeling the imposter syndrome just because you don't deep-dive into a functional area the way your business units do. Although the CR role involves shallow dipping in a wide variety of disciplines - like supply chain, EHS, and marketing - doing the dance of corporate influencing is a skill all its own.

Defer credit for major wins to your business units. They're the ones carrying out real changes, and they're your most important allies.

Culture eats policy for breakfast; corporations are just groups of people who learn to interact with each other in a certain way. Navigating those interactions, and tailoring your efforts around corporate culture realities, will trump any CR mandate you can write.

Changing Business From the Inside Out reads as a detailed manual for someone who's already landed that elusive CR role - so you might not find the most direct takeaways if you're working elsewhere in the corporation. But it's a revealing glimpse into what CR professionals actually do, and delivers seriously practical advice for creating change within the corporate sector. And even if you're a treehugger who needs some convincing that CR departments really work, this is a worthwhile read.

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