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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

CSR Author Spotlight: Veronica Scheubel

Born in: St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canda
Lives in: 'The Vermont of Germany,' the Red Hair Mountains (about 100 miles east of Cologne and north of Frankfurt) with German high school sweetheart, after 22 years apart.
Educated at: Educated at: Baccalaureate in Germany, Political Science at Concordia University in Montreal and Masters in Organisation Consulting at Ashridge Business School in the UK.
Favorite CSR Book: Adrian Hodges' and David Grayson's Everybody's Business, as it was the first book to educate the world about CSR.
Favorite non-CSR book: Kenneth Leung's The Zen Teachings of Jesus (it's not a religious book); Edward Said's Representations of the Intellectual, Milan Kundera's Immortality.
Favorite movies: 'Il Postino,' 'Monsoon Wedding,' 'Smoke,' 'Smoke Signals,' 'The Royal Tenenbaums,' 'Gosford Park,' 'Lisbon Story,' 'Lost in Translation,' 'Eat Drink Man Woman'.
Favorite musician: Jazz trumpet player Chet Baker on 'The Best of Chet Baker Sings'
Favorite CSR report: SAP - for being accessible from mobile tablets, for the interaction and engagement, for the view of developing sustainability reporting as a journey.
If I could, I would ...: Go live in Buenos Aires for a year or two and then explore business opportunities in India!

Having co-authored, with Nick Lakin, number 7 on the Cambridge University Sustainability Leadership Programme's top sustainability books of 2010, together with over 10 years of hands-on business practice and consulting experience, Veronica Scheubel, former Senior Corporate Responsibility Manager at Nokia, is a superstar amongst experts in how to mastermind and execute ways for businesses to engage with the community. Her book, Corporate Community Involvement: The Definitive Guide to Maximising your Business' Societal Engagement, (Greenleaf, 2010) is the most comprehensive, practical and well-researched guide available for those wishing to devise, plan, manage and succeed in delivering business engagement with local communities and employee volunteering programs. According to Veronica, there was a clear gap in the market for this kind of book: "Nick and I noticed that between the two of us, we had written so many internal company manuals on how to practice Community Involvement from inside a company. Nick asked why nobody had ever thought of turning this into a book, so companies don't have to re-invent the wheel. He convinced me that the two of us had to do that, so we set out to write our book. Working to a strict schedule, we got it done in 6 months. It helped that we had our previously-written manuals to refer to, and that we had all our personal experience from managing global Community Involvement programs to draw on."

Since publication, Corporate Community Involvement has generated positive reactions. Veronica mentions that "quite a few people have contacted us to let us know that they found the book really useful, particularly the Chapters on Strategy, Employee Involvement and how to operate as a company-internal change agent." According to Veronica, the most important messages in the book for succeeding in community involvement are: "Be strategic and contribute your company's core competencies, engage in real cross-sector partnerships in the community, and involve key functions in the company as well as employee volunteers."

The practice of community involvement is by no means uniform across all companies, according to Veronica. "As with so many other aspects of corporate life, there are the visionaries, the early adopters, the early majority, the late majority and the laggards. What strikes me after more than 10 years of my own work in this area is that we still have players in every field! We have visionaries like IBM, early adopters like Nokia, many companies in the early majority, but shockingly many companies still in the late majority that are still dabbling in philanthropy and are only just discovering Community Involvement. And then of course, there are laggards that still claim Community Involvement is not relevant to them and that shareholder value is all that counts ... The 'early' half encourages and enthuses me while the 'late' half creates the gap versus my expectations and shows me that there is still so much more work to do!"

Most of Veronica's professional time is spent in organizational change and corporate responsibility consulting, training, executive coaching, team development and Action Learning. She is also active in The Partnering Initiative at the International Business Leaders Forum in London which leads in matters relating to cross-sector collaboration. Veronica is an Associate, offering training, facilitation and mediation, including a three-day certification training in cross-sector partnering practice, offered in different countries. In addition, Veronica and her partner bought a home with a garden and, for the past two years, have been busy with renovation and redecoration. They both enjoy travel and the sun, hiking, cooking and nice restaurants, movies and good books. Every few days, they 'borrow' the neighbor's four year-old twin boys for a play session which is fun for all.

But this does not prevent Veronica from considering what her next book will focus on: "A few colleagues and I are really passionate about the opportunities of bringing organizational change consultants together with Sustainability Managers in companies, as we have experienced first-hand how much can be achieved for embedding Sustainability throughout an organization when both work together and pool their knowledge, resources and approaches. It is still a very new message out there, and we are a small cohort, but we'd like to spread the word and the practice, so there will have to be a book about it!"

Indeed, Veronica has a passion for making change in organizations more accessible. "The world is changing, and participative approaches within organizations as well as with stakeholders will become increasingly important and unavoidable. This is where I see a focus of my work - I'd like to support people in organizations, who might be used to the 'old ways' and perhaps a bit unused to and afraid of 'sharing power', in familiarizing themselves with new concepts, trying them out and experimenting with them. As a facilitator, I can help create a 'safe environment' for that." As Francois de la Rochefoucauld once said, "The only constant thing in life is change." Anyone who can help us navigate that is playing an important role in society, and Veronica, both in her practice and with her book, surely demonstrates what it means to be an agent of change.

I would like to thank Veronica Scheubel for sharing her insights and for her great guide to Corporate Community Involvement which features highly on my always-keep-close book list.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices  Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

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