Are you a CSR Master Chef?

Are you a CSR Master Chef?

A quiz for those passionate about Corporate Social Responsibility and food.

As a foodie that enjoys varied cuisine, I like watching cooking programs like MasterChef. It could well be that because I love food as much as I enjoy working in Corporate Social Responsibility, that I find several similarities between them, as much as to say that many of us are CSR Master Chefs.

We are surely not competing for immunity or to get ‘the power apron’, and we may certainly consider ourselves more than just amateurs. Nevertheless, there are several parallels between the TV show and us. Answer these questions and you’ll see what I mean.


1.Is your professional background originally different from CSR?


Most of us CSR professionals, same as the MasterChef contestants, come from varied backgrounds not necessarily related to CSR, or cooking in their case. Some of us are Marketing practitioners, Project Managers, Accountants, HR, and the list goes on. However, some time and somehow, we all realise that CSR/cooking is our real passion and decide that this is what we want to do.

Fortunately, some of us have been given the opportunity to study courses in CSR or related, but almost none of us studied a CSR degree simply because there was none in our university time! I wonder if studying CSR at Uni would have taken away the fun of the punches we received when we first started this journey.


2.Do you have to be multi-tasking in order to deliver in full and on time?


Have you seen MasterChef pressure tests in which they are mixing eggs in a bowl with one hand while with the other they are melting sugar in a pan? That’s our life! One day we are designing our shared value program, defining our sustainability business case, advocating for gender quality in the workplace, developing our stakeholder engagement plan, you name it, all at the same time!


3.Do you frequently face various challenges and ‘mystery boxes’?


As in the contest, we have individual and team challenges almost every day. In some we are leading the team, in others we are team players working towards one of the company’s strategic goals. Sometimes we are expected to ‘cook up’ a project for hundreds of people within limited time or little support.

At times we are handed out ‘mystery boxes’ with ingredients or utensils that we don’t feel comfortable working with but that we have to use for the specific project (you know what I mean, right?).

Anyway and after all, we embrace those tests with grace and we strive to make the most of our efforts. That’s what makes us the crusaders we are.


4. Do you have to fight for ingredients from a pantry with limited supplies?


Every year in the planning of the corporate budget we fight for resources as agilely as the contestants run to the pantry when they hear the ‘your time starts now!’ cue. Working often with limited resources has made us learn to be creative and resilient.

Although there is still a lot of work to do, now there is certainly a better understanding at the Board and senior executives of what CSR is and that we need resources to effectively deliver bottom line benefits, just as any other productive unit in the business does.


5.Do you often see yourself balancing between sweetness and bitterness?


CSR is full of flavours, colours and textures. Who doesn’t like the sweetness of volunteering programs, cause-related marketing, CSR awards and recognitions, and all those initiatives that give us the best smiling shots for our website and sustainability reports?

But think about this, wouldn’t it be boring if all was sweet as honey? Well, that’s why sometimes we see ourselves pushing for improvement in bitter areas like ethical performance issues, environmental incompliances, not very collaborative colleagues, and you know the rest. They say that the best chefs play with different flavours and always get them well balanced.


6.Is your work evaluated by bold judges?


Are there any judges tougher than Gary, George and Matt? Yes! Our stakeholders. Internally; the Board, the senior management, our employees, etc. Externally; the government, community leaders, environmental groups, the media, you name it! We have to cater for all of them and they score us with their approval and support or with their elimination from ‘the show’.

Having innovative and truly beneficial CSR programs is a must but we shouldn’t forget that presentation is also an essential element to get our stakeholders engaged. We eat first with our eyes.


7.Do you encourage other peers or have you been encouraged by others?


What I like about this TV show is that there is a sense of comradery despite the fact it’s a competition. As in the ‘elimination challenges’, those that are on the balcony cheer up the ones competing or prompt them when their broth has boiled for too long. That’s professionalism!

Fortunately I see a lot of that in CSR. In fact, I was one of those receiving advice from more experienced peers that mentored me and cheered me up more than 10 years ago when I started in this journey, and now it feels so rewarding paying it forward with other colleagues.


Regardless of these similarities I think there is something that makes our CSR profession quite different; we don’t have to wait until the end of ‘the season’ to receive our prize because we get it every day! Our reward is to know that we are nurturing people’s lives, contributing to the company we work for, the people within it, and those around us. That’s what it’s all about!

If you responded ‘Yes’ to five or more of these questions you can considered yourself a CSR Master Chef!


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