Aaron Fu, an alumnus and emerging leader in CSR

Based on an interview with Aaron Fu, an AIESEC alumnus, we explore his pathway into the CSR field of work.  From an AIESEC conference to internships, all the way to his invitation to guest tweet at the Responsible Leadership Summit in London.

sustainabilityLogo1AIESEC “inspires its members, a pool of tremendous skill and talent, to make a positive impact in the world”.  A very nice quote and it’s true.  It is for this reason AIESEC talks about issues such as entrepreneurship, mobility and sustainability.  Members develop themselves while being in AIESEC, before really making an impact on issues later on.

The quote comes from recent AIESEC Alumnus Aaron Fu, an emerging leader in corporate social responsibility (CSR).

“I believe that most business undergraduates, at some point, ask themselves, ‘What do I really want to do?'”.  It was this question, aided by his attendance of AIESEC’s 2005 International Development Congress in Jaipur India, that founded and fuelled his “deep desire to have a tangible positive impact in development”.  The Congress was about how AIESEC can contribute to the United Nations Millenium Development Goals, “I met an incredible number of business students passionate about the issues of development”.

Aaron found his entry into CSR professionally with his move to Singapore.  He completed an internship at CSR Asia and chaired an AIESEC conference themed on CSR.  But Aaron already had some CSR experience, establishing his university’s first fair-trade advocacy organisation, through which he realised “the inextricable impact businesses have on development”.

Aaron has delved further into CSR through Web 2.0.  Aaron is the founder of evolvingchoice.com, a blog he established to “raise awareness and deliver commentary on CSR”.  He continued, “I felt that there was a lot of CSR expert commentary out… but a surprising scarcity of content targeted at ‘everyone else’.  I wanted to address this gap”.  He is a guest blogger on APESphere and runs a successful CSR-themed Twitter feed (@AaronQFu).

It was this success that led to his invitation to guest tweet at the Responsible Business Summit in London, run by Ethical Corporation.  He engaged directly with the business leaders of CSR strategy, and saw the spectrum of progress organisations have made in integrating CSR.

“Many saw it as nothing more than an extension of PR, but many were making incredible progress in truly embedding CSR into every single key decision making process.”

Aaron clearly has impressive CSR credentials.  Although in his eyes, he is only “building [his] capacity to make an impact”.  Perhaps modesty is also developed in AIESEC members in addition to leadership development?

I asked Aaron for his thoughts on the key trends in CSR today:

“In the middle of the downturn we are currently experiencing, we are seeing that firms that primarily associate CSR with PR and Philanthropy have led the way in dramatically reducing CSR budgets and teams.  However, there are a number of corporations that have made no such cuts, these see CSR as integral to the running of their business and have acted to deeply embed CSR into their operations.”

“A key challenge currently facing them is the issue of getting middle management on board. Young team members often have great enthusiasm for driving CSR and many Boards have accepted the long-term strategic important of good CSR, but middle management, often under tremendous pressure to meet operational business targets are increasingly being seen as the current stumbling block to thorough penetration of CSR into business decision making.”

Finally, I asked Aaron how AIESEC is and should be making an impact on CSR.  He offered three points:

  • “With many of AIESEC’s members being business students, many [Local Committees] have answered this challenge by engaging in CSR and sustainability issues.”
  • “Facilitate discussions between members who want to create the same kind of change.”
  • “Focus on platforms that allow corporations to engage students and youth in the planning of their CSR strategies.”

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