Times have changed. Today, executives earning professional credentials are writing their 20-page papers on environmental sustainability and socially responsible leadership.

The Corporate Responsibility Officer Association (CRO) has compiled a list of the top 10 corporate social responsibility (CSR) executive training programs in 2008 (1). The results validate that CSR is quickly becoming an intellectual component of our global society's business and leadership framework.

According to Danielle Lee of CRO, the list showcases the most extensive executive education programs dedicated to corporate responsibility, as identified by their curricula on ethical behavior, talent diversity and development, environmental sustainability, global awareness, and social concerns.

Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Northwestern, and Stanford snag spots on the list, along with the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, which provides more than 20 CSR-related open-enrollment and certificate programs. Recurring course topics include sustainable growth, women's leadership, social innovation, and global leadership.

Opportunities for learning executives to gain professional CSR expertise can be obtained through a variety of educational options. Most MBA and leadership degree programs include CSR components within the required curricula. Some schools, such as Green Mountain College in Vermont, even dedicate entire MBA programs to the study of social responsibility (2).

Certificate programs offer practical training in two- or three-day sessions. UNC Kenan Flagler offers a three-day certificate program, Becoming Green: Effective Sustainability Strategies for You and Your Organization (3). Many business schools offer open-enrollment programs, which are basically longer and more intensive versions of certificate programs. For example, Harvard offers a four-day executive education program, Corporate Social Responsibility: Strategies to Create Business and Social Value (4).

If you have considered pursuing CSR higher education but wonder if it is worth your time and money, you are not alone.

"A course of study on social responsibility isn't necessary, nor will it be effective, if the culture of the corporation doesn't support it," says Gloria Regalbuto Bentley, director of learning programs at GenSpring Family Offices in Florida. "I don't think you can teach ethics or social responsibility, but you can make it a prerequisite for employment by being completely transparent about the corporation's core values during the recruitment, interviewing, and assessment process."

Wes Stockmann, manager of performance development and risk at Nicholas & Company, Inc. in Salt Lake City, believes CSR training has helped him bring a fresh perspective to his firm.

"We're not here to just make money, but to do meaningful work that makes this world a better place, provide satisfying employment for many families, and create long-term success," Stockmann says. "Many business executives have destroyed the trust that was created by their predecessors through greed, shortterm goals, and disregard for basic ethics. Why those who knew better stood by and allowed it to happen is something that we need to study and correct."

Most executives can agree that the more they know about the climate of the global workplace, the better they can lead others into the future. However, the necessity and value of CSR education is a subjective issue, and ultimately you have the final word: Is corporate social responsibility education important enough to be one of your future professional goals?