Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Well, Well, Well... It pays off!

A press release on 29th December 2010 announced that Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) of the Phillipines won an Excellence Award at Asia’s premier awards program on corporate social responsibility, the 9th Asian CSR Awards, for its holistic employee wellness program, Live Smart: Healthy U, Wealthy U, Happy U.  Live Smart! promotes physical, financial, social, spiritual and community wellness of employees. Employees are given the rudiments of managing finances wisely under the Wealthy U! pillar. Through this, employees get entrepreneurship opportunities, attend seminars on managing finances, and enjoy discounts and promos. Happy U!, on the one hand, serves as employees’ outlet for fun and meaningful activities. Under Happy You! is Happy to Help, the community service program wherein employees get to choose a partner organization for their volunteer activity.

This wellness programme is fairly unique, as far as I can tell, amongst the spectrum of employee wellness activities in many companies not least because it includes the aspect of financial health and wellness, not just physical and spiritual aspects. Helping employees manage their personal finances can be a massive contribution to empowering them with far-reaching implications for the strength of local communities. Most people have never received any formal education or training in the complexities of managing household economics, in selecting insurance, in setting up savings progammes, in providing for the cost of education or possible sickness in the family,  in making significant purchases including home-buying and mortgage, in aspects of banking costs and much more. Helping employees to live within their means, provide for their own future and enjoy a life of managing money in a stress-free way is part of the triple bottom line of CSR applied to individiuals. This is an area in which corporations can do much more, I believe, and gain added value through improved employee wellbeing and engagement.

I am pleased to see the recognition for such a program at the Asia Awards.  This is of course is at the heart of a CSR for HR approach. In fact, I recently wrote an Editorial for on the subject of employee wellness programmes, quoting a Harvard Business Review article  in which conclusive proof is provided to show that investment in employee wellness, beyond the minimum requirements of the law, delivers a Return on Investment beyond the reasonable expectation of most. Johnson & Johnson report a $2.71 saving for every $1 spent, saving the company $250 million in healthcare costs over the past decade. In many cases, the return is even greater, as HBR reports "The ROI on comprehensive, well-run employee wellness programs can be as high as 6 to 1."  The authors of the HBR study point out that "passes to fitness clubs and nutrition information in the cafeteria are not enough".

I believe this aspect of CSR and HR has been long underestimated. It is now an approach whose time has come. The investment in employee wellness has to be considered one of the most fundamental tenets of a CSR approach, and I have not come accross a single company that has implemented such an approach and not reaped significant benefits. There is a clear business case, with measurable financial benefits, unlike some other areas of CSR which are header to measure.

Whether your company is in it for the money, or simply because you value your employees, it seems that an employee wellness programme should be an imperative for any Company serious about sustainability in 2011.  This is why I will be repeating, also in 2011, my mantra : It is time for HR to wake up to CSR!

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

Friday, December 17, 2010

CSR for HR: more buzz from Business that Cares

Another wonderful review of CSR for HR just published by Lalia Helmer on the Business that Cares blog. Lalia is the founder of Luminis Consulting, and she is a coach, trainer and facilitator, helping people to create value for themselves and others, using Positive Psychology and Appreciative Enquiry. Lalia has written a fabulous, insightful review of CSR for HR. You can follow Lalia at @laliahelmer. Here is some of what she says:

"Reading CSR FOR HR by Elaine Cohen has successfully answered some key questions that have I been chewing over in my head. The book follows the very engaging format of a fictionalized character, Sharon an HR executive, guided by another fictional character named Arena, who initiates her into the world of CSR. As the main character meets and learns from other CSR practitioners, that serve as her teachers and guides, the various functions of CSR within corporate organizations, she also learns what role and responsibility HR can take in changing corporate culture by integrating a CSR perspective into all of the its functions.

As though I was initiated too, this book was an eye opener for me to view what I have considered to be primarily HR functions as a form of Social Responsibility....Having worked as an organizational development consultant, facilitator and trainer I have seen how the role of corporate culture change often falls on the shoulders of HR. Now CSR practitioners are also change agents banging on the doors of the traditional corporate mindset to become more aware of their responsibility to bring about the kind of social benefits that affect their companies, the employees, and now the world.  An alliance of these two change agencies may be just the line of attack to bring down the some of the barriers to change that many companies still hold up."

Thank you Lalia for reading CSR for HR and for taking the time to write such a positive review. Thank you for helping spread the mantra : It is time for HR to wake up to CSR! 
I will be doing more spreading the mantra in Ede in the Netherlands on March 8th 2011 (yes, International Women's Day, what a great day to talk about CSR and HR) at a conference for HR and CSR professionals. More about that in due course.

In the meantime, time to catch up on your reading ? :)

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

8 things that work in embedding a CSR culture

This week saw the release of an interesting report on the subject of Embedding Sustainability in Organizational Culture  by the Network for Business Sustainability. As anyone who has read CSR for HR knows, haha, CSR without embedding is like Chunky without Monkey. Yet embedding culture is no small feat and very few companies actually reach the point where it becomes a self-perpetuating feature of the way they do business, despite the fact that more and more CEO's are confirming that sustanability is the only way forward. The folks at NBS couldn't sit back and let this embedding thing get lost behind a wall of good intentions so they commissioned the most comprehensive research done to date on this topic, spanning 179 different studies and over 15 years of research.

The report itself is an academic study of  the embedding of sustainability initiatives and their outcomes based on review of a wide range of research papers. Each separate initiative is classified into its own unique place on a comprehensive framework moving through fostering commitment to clarifying expectations to instilling the capacity for change and building the momentum for change, defining a culture of sustainability as one in which "organizational members hold shared assumptions and beliefs about the importance of balancing economic efficiency, social equity and environmental accountability". The report classifies all the examples of initiatives supporting an embedded culture of sustainability into three classes: those which someone proposed but which have never actually been put into practice, those which have some practical backing as they have been shown to work as part of a broader intiative, and those which are supported by empirical evidence in research.

Unfortunately, most busy HR professionals will not want to crawl through 73 pages of academic analysis,and  the report does not include a handy summary list of all the things that work. So, I did the homework for you :)

Support - make it easier for employees to make choices that favour sustainability. Examples given include providing corporate vans for ride-sharing, or ensuring management support for employees' sustainability activities

Model - enact the roles and behaviours organizational leadership wishes employees to emulate. Well, we all know how important it is to talk and walk the talk, right ? The opposite is also true, according to this report, for example, when a CEO denounced green iniatives at a Christmas party as nonsense, it dampened the greening efforts being undertaken. That was back in 2002. Wonder if he is now a green CEO or an ex-CEO ? 

Allocate - back up the commitment to sustainability with an allocation of time, money, and people. Ah yes, budgets. That's where things always seem to stick.

Create roles - expand existing roles or develop new roles within the organization to capture essential sustainability responsibilities. Hired your Chief Sustainability Officer yet ?

Train - training employees in systems or procedures related to sustainability. Actually, it suprises me that I don't see sustainability as a core element of management training in most companies. I think it's a subject that is important enough to every single role in the organization that it should be as commonplace as safety or quality training.

Frame - construct and present a fact or an issue from a sustainability perspective. Talk about sustainability as quality, or as safety, or as a financial return to the business, or simply as "the right thing to do". Deliver sustainability messages in clear language. That's what the NBS report says. Oh, and I say, hold off on the jargon and the acronyms. IMHO.

Champion - champion  individuals who defend a cause or a course of action supporting sustainability. Internal champions, the evidence shows, seem to be more effective than external. Yep, I'll buy that. Even though I am a consultant.

Experiment - encourage employees to try new things or develop their own solutions. Agree. It's amazing what people come up with when you let go of the leash for a while. This is especially important in fostering a culture of innovation, the sister of sustainability.

All the above, however, are the tip of the iceberg of what you can find in this review. It includes many more interesting aspects of embedding sustainability and  is peppered with specific examples from different companies. In many cases, even if there  no specific proof that the intiatives mentioned actually work, many intuitively sound right. In any event, the range of initiatives covered are surely a great source of ideas and can serve to spark some creativity in your own attempts to develop a sustainability-enabled culture.

My advice:
Take a look and use this review as a reference guide as often as you need it.
Alongside CSR for HR, of course.  

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

Aequology and CSR for HR

I woke up this morning to a wonderful surprise: a fabulous review of CSR for HR by Frederic Page, a business consultant, trainer and coach with interest in  Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability, Environment and Human Rights. Frederic lives in Barcelona, one of my favourite cities, and he also writes the Aequology blog, where he published the aforementioned review. Frederic is also a frequent #CSR Tweeter at @carbonimpact, and I enjoy his often humorous and always interesting tweets which appear daily on my Tweetdeck. One more point -  Frederic was one of the winners of the CSR for HR book giveaway sponsored by last month.

Frederic writes in his review : 

"CSR for HR is a very meaningful book by a knowledgable author whose effective storytelling provides the compelling evidence that “a partnership” – between HR and CSR – is needed to advance “responsible business practices”. Although the Author has included few fictional characters to support her point, the situations, comments and people described in the book are absolutely realistic and will sound familiar to most of the readers. Along with those fictional characters, Elaine Cohen mentions and quotes some of the most well-known experts working in the fields of HR, CSR and Sustainability such as Julie Urlaub of Taiga Company, Chris Jarvis of Realized Worth or Cathy Joseph. Finally, it’s nice to see that the Author has managed to stay away from any technical jargon and smartly uses humor and anecdotes all along the narrative."

Frederic then goes on to describe the apporach and key areas covered in the book. But the best paragraph of all is this:

"Yesterday I met up with my friend Victoria, a young and talented HR manager, working with a multinational IT company and I asked her what she knew about Corporate Social Responsibility and if it was part of her role and responsibilities. She, almost literally, answered: “I have to admit that I don’t know what corporate social responsibility involves. I’m not sure why it’s important. ” We enjoyed our Cookie Dough ice cream, chatting about other topics, before having a walk along the sea in Barcelona. When I went back home I ordered a copy of HR for CSR. It will be the perfect Christmas gift for Victoria and, hopefully, the beginning of a great journey!"

The nice thing about that last paragraph is that it validates the  message of CSR for HR. That message is, as you know by now, it is time for HR to wake up to CSR! Frederic's friend, Victoria, admitted not to knowing what CSR is all about and why it affects her HR role. This is the basic tenet on which CSR for HR is based - the fact that HR professionals have not caught up with the way sustainability is changing businesses and what they have a responsibility to do about it. I am thankful to Frederic for passing the message on, and glad that CSR for HR will, through him, reach another HR professional. I hope Victoria gains new insights from CSR for HR, which will lead to changes in  HR processes in her company. In the meantime, I was wondering, well, errr,  what does  Cookie Dough ice cream actually taste like ?!  

I would like to thank Frederic for taking time to read CSR for HR, and for writing and publishing a terrific review!

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

CSR for HR in Germany

Is CSR for HR the next big thing ?

I would like to share with you an article I wrote for a German professional HR Magazine explaing why I think it is.You can download it from my website here .  The jounal, Personahfuehrung is  the magazine of DGPF, the German Association for Personnel Management,  founded by representatives from the worlds of business and science in 1952. This was a time in which new achievements such as autonomous wage bargaining, many new acts of parliament such as the Labour-Management Relations Act and the start-up of the social market economy were exercising a strong influence on company personnel and social-welfare policies. In order to manage these new challenges, those responsible sought some kind of supra-industry interchange of views and experience.

DGFP is a non profit organization, headquartered in Düsseldorf, with regional offices in Berlin, Frankfurt/M., Hamburg, Leipzig, Stuttgart and Munich. It comprises about 2000 members ranging from large, medium-sized and smaller companies. According to its charter, DGFP's mission is to promote human resources management - in practice, research and teaching. DGF's monthly magazine "Personalführung" is for members and others interested in personnel management subjects, reports on the latest developments in human resources. Each issue features a main topic.The subscriber spectrum goes far beyond those working in HR and includes a wide variety of readers in Germany and abroad.

I am delighted to have contributed to this important publication and hope the message gets through. By now, you know what it is: It is time for HR to wake up to CSR!

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

CSR for HR in the UK

Last Thursday, in London, I gave a lecture to a large group of senior Human Resources Directors and CSR Directors from a range of impressive organizations in the UK. Some representing global companies headquartered outside of the UK, some global companies based in the UK, and some, local companies. The event was a meeting of the HR Leaders Club, organized by HR Magazine, a leading professional print journal in the UK. The HR Leaders Club is an invite-only tradition, and has hosted such illustrious throught leaders as Dave Ulrich in the past. My talk was of course about CSR for HR, under the theme of  "It is time for HR to wake up to CSR!

I told the story of Sharon, the protagonist in my book  and her immersion in the world of the CSHR Manager, and why this is important, and even imperative, for the HR function to address. A lively discussion followed, some of which was very supportive from those who have some experience, some of which was questioning and challenging. The debate was outstanding and the meeting a refreshing and encouraging platform to create awareness for a different way of doing HR. The entire subject will feature in the December edition of HR Magazine, but in the meantime, you can see a short write up and some interesting responses on the HR Magazine website here. My thanks to Sian Harrington, Editor and Buck Consultants who sponsored the event, and to Greenleaf Publishing who kindly provided books for all attendees.

HR Magazine is no stranger to CSR for HR. In fact, the  Editor, the dymanic and popular Sian Harrington launched a Make a Difference campaign way back in 2008, long before I had contemplated writing CSR for HR. You can see the first article in this campaign here - this included a survey of the Magazine's readership on attitudes to CSR in HR. Sian Harrington, who authored the article, writes: "If there is something that is guaranteed to make businesses sit up and listen it is competitive advantage. Human Resources agrees that CSR practice adds value to business ...HR professionals should take an active role in embedding CSR into their organisation." Sian writes that HR professionals can help lead and educate their companies about the importance of CSR and enable meaningful management and HR practices to support CSR goals. Indeed, eight in 10 HR professionals believe CSR will be a more important part of their job in the next five years, according to HR Magazine's research.

You can see the follow up to this campaign a year later here. This second article reports highlights from a repeat survey of 127 HR directors. Sian writes this time around: "The clear message from the HR practitioners who responded is that the business environment will change considerably over the next three to five years and that these trends create both threats and opportunities. In some areas the impacts will be negative - for example, growing regulation is expected to have a mainly adverse impact on over half the organisations that participated in the survey. The impact of other trends is seen as being primarily positive: for example, growing consumer demands for companies to contribute to the broader public good was seen as a positive trend by over half the respondents. ... [the results of the survey show that] HR practitioners see the importance of CSR to many aspects of their role. However, in many organisations, recognition has yet to translate into practice." 

I looked at the November 2010 print edition of HR magazine and noticed several articles which align with the CSHR message. For example, an article by Michael Saxton of Greenpoint PR, a regular contributor to HR Magazine on HR/CSR topics,  penned an article entitled "You'd be wrong to think as an HR Director that  carbon reduction has nothing to do with you". He refers to best practice guidelines for HR to integrate green practices into training programmes with best practice from the LessEn campaign, amongst other things.

The ongoing campaign by HR Magazine under the personal direction of Sian Harrington is a breath of fresh air in the world of HR writings and discussions. Very few leading HR publications address this subject and, as I have commented in the past, there is virtually zero coverage of these themes at HR conferences. I am glad I could contribute my part in advancing the campaign and spreading the message: It is time for HR to wake up to CSR!

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

CSR for HR in Poland

Here is the review:

Corporate Responsible Business (CSR) and Sustainability Development (SD). What does it mean? What is hidden behind these terms? Who is responsible for creating, running and control CSR strategy in company? How many time will take company to become responsible. A year? Five years? Which strategy is better? One huge project, or "slice by slice".
You will find answer here. Please read story of fictional HR director - Sharon. When we met her she knows nothing about CSR. We are witnesses of honing her skills in this subject.
It's easy to read book. Full of dialogs. (I know it's very rare in business not adventure books). Such construction helps readers to understand CSR and SD. For instance Sharon - main character asks questions which we wish to ask.
Interesting book with full of ready to use examples.
It contains facts and arguments for implementing CSR in company.
It shows how much important role have HR department in each company not only in global corporations.  

Actually, Pawel wrote to me to tell me that he had posted this review and also mentioned that the company he works for in Poland is now just starting some CSR activities.

There is something really special about reaching a beginner CSR practitioner in a different country with a different language with a book that help create new insights and lead to new actions in a business. If there is a reason to write about CSR, this is it!

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Human capital. Your job?

This week has been a good week for CSR for HR.

We started off with Aman Singh of's absolutely fabulous review of CSR for HR which was published on This is the first part of the reivew:

"Human capital. My career. My job.

In a game of word association, how many times would 'corporate social responsibility' elicit any of the above phrases? I'll hazard a guess and say maybe one out of 10 times.

Because not until recently has there been as much analysis and commentary on the importance of CSR and sustainability. However, most of it continues to lean toward discussing the greener aspects of sustainability: it's good for the environment, a sustainable business strategy leads to profits with performance, etc.

Until last month, when a much-awaited book arrived at my doorstep: CSR for HR: A Necessary Partnership for Advancing Responsible Business Practices. Authored by Elaine Cohen, cofounder of Beyond Business Ltd., a CSR consulting and sustainability reporting firm--and a prolific blogger on CSR reporting--the book is a persuasive argument for connecting CSR with a company's human resources function. Having spent over 20 years in senior leadership positions with companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever, Cohen's narratives come from experience. And a strong belief that corporate social responsibility must begin internally--with your company's primary stakeholders: employees."

The review also appeared on, Aman's home base
The same review also appeared on Forbes CSR blog.

I am delighted with Aman's review and am very grateful for her taking the time to write about CSR for HR.

Another fabulous article authored by Akhila Vijayaraghavan appeared on yesterday's Justmeans website. Akhila interviewed me, asking  a whole strong of questions about me, CSR, HR, CSR for HR and more.  Akhila did a wonderful job of piecing my responses together to formulate a really nice article. Akhila even remembered to ask my favourite brand of ice cream. Regular reader of my blogs know the answer to that one, but if you don't and are remotely interested, you can read Akhila's full article here.

To complete the hat trick, CSRwire  published the CSR Book Giveaway in yesterday's Daily News Alert. CSRwire ran a giveaway of  four signed copies of CSR for HR to subscribers.I understand that this was a very popular campaign and many many entries were received. The four lucky winners to whom we will be shipping free books pronto are .............. well, CSRwire will make that announcement. But a big THANK YOU to all of you who participated, to CSRwire for running the campaign and to Greenleaf Publishing for providing the books.

And to round off, as we are on the CSRwire theme, I will mention my editorial which also ran this week called "Because you are worth it. Some of you".  The editorial highlights the major recent campaigns of the global beauty care company, L'Oreal,  for the advancement of support of women. However, L'Oreal over the years has been plagued  and criticised and even fined in legal actions for discriminating against women, especially with regard to their marketing programmes. Also, whilst there are 64% of women in the L'Oreal ranks, only 19% (5 out of 26) are "worth it" enough to reach the Executive Team or Board  (including the founder of the Company and her daughter).  Read the full editorial here.

I believe this is a classic case of CSR-HR disconnect. The L'Oreal company clearly wants to be a champion of gender diversity and makes all the right noices at policy level and have made some practical progress. However, there is a misalignment of  results which shows up in the smallest of everyday actions in the marketing department and elswhere. I wonder if a stronger HR voice would be able to create a culture in which true respect for women and authentic possibilities for women to advance to the highest levels of this company would be the thing that makes the big difference. This is a company that was founded by a woman, owned (mainly) by a woman and directs most of its sales towards a female customer base. How many opportunities is this company failing to realise when so few women are deemed capable of directing it ? The closing line of my editorial ? "L'Oréal's business may be about beauty products, but this company should take care that their diversity policy does not become just another line of cosmetics."

CSR for HR addresses the things that HR people need to do to be game-changers in this field. I hope at least a few bold HR people will read the book and take the core messages on board.

Human capital is EVERYBODY's job. But HR must help.

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

Monday, November 8, 2010

ConAgra, Employee Engagement and Christmas

Here is an interesting article about the way ConAgra engages employees, concluding that employee engagement improves safety levels. This is reported in ConAgra's  2010 Sustainability Report. ConAgra has also implemented a wellness programme for employees, offering employees financial incentives to stay healthy. Employees who undergo a Personal Health Assessment and a preventive health screening can save up to $780 on medical health premiums. This is in addition to other employee wellness measures such as a programme called  "Choose to Lose"  (weight) and also maintaining a tobacco free campus.

These are good intiiatives and reflect best CSR practice. In making external CSR platforms relevant and available to all employees, a company helps employees become more aware of sustainability issues and more motivated to talk about these in an informed way with external contact points. In addition, the company benefits through reduced healthcare costs and society benefits by gaining a more vibrant community. What I miss in the ConAgra report is some sense of tangible outcomes for the business as a result of their wellness programms. Did people stop smoking? Did health attirbutes of employees improve? Did people who chose to lose weight manage to keep it off? How many employees saved medical premiums through participating in the wellness program? As this started in 2008, there should be some useful data on employee participation and specific outcomes by now. 

The ConAgra report doesnt mention the role of the Human Resources team in their business in supporting these wellness (and safety) change programmes. This is key to CSR for HR and I hope that their plans were implemented in full partnership with the HR function.  

This is all fine, but what does it have to do with Christmas?

Well, today, a global company ordered a personal copy of CSH for HR (the book) for each member of their HR team as a Christmas gift. As you can imagine, I think this is a WONDERFUL idea. In fact, I would be pleased if ConAgra would do this - I am sure that the CSR/HR team there would gain some new insights about how to drive further responsible and sustainable business practices through close partnership with the HR team. In the meantime, if  YOU might consider ordering a large number of copies of CSR for HR for YOUR teams, do let me know and I am sure we will be able to offer a nice discount. Remember, Christmas is a time for generosity and sharing :)) CSR for HR could help you do this, as well as provide an opportunity for professional development of your in-house teams. Please  write to me at if you are interested.

Yes, that was a plug for the book. I am going to do that occasionally. Be warned.

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

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Is it April 1st already ?

I took a few minutes to read this post which had an intriguing title. "The Social Responsibility to Generate Employee Happiness." , on the Forbes CSR blog. The article puts forward the premise that "creativity, happiness and performance enable a positive feedback loop....(Shawn) Achor calls this idea the “Pygmalion Effect,” meaning that people act how we expect them to act. Expect them to succeed, encourage and praise them accordingly, and studies show that they will. Similarly, provide them with a creative, “happy” environment, and people will find greater meaning in their jobs , regardless of what the job is .."

Stop.  Sounds a bit far-fetched to me.

How many incompetent people have been promoted to the level of their incompetence because we expected them to succeed and praised them a helluva lot? How many people have we praised even through they don't really deserve it, only to find that it doesn't make them better performers after all? And creating a "happy" environment so that people will find meaning in their jobs ... I am not convinced. Sounds like something a business scool professor might dream up. haha.

People don't perform because they are happy. People perform because they are motivated by a worthwhile purpose, have freedom to operate in the organization they work for, are shown respect and listened to by their bosses and peers, and  have the tools to do what they need to do.

Happiness is a subjective thing. I don't believe you can train happiness (though there are some well-paid happiness gurus who might claim otherwise). You can train positive attitude, which can be a developed habit, but you cannot train people to be "happy". You cannot truly measure "happiness" which is an ephemeral thing and dependent upon circumstances of the day. So the thought that companies have a social responsibility to make employees "happy" is both a non-sequitur and an abuse of the term social responsibility. And frankly, any employee who comes to work looking to be made happy is probably not an employee I would want to hire. I would hire people who want to feel fulfilled, satisfied, positive, collegiate, challenged, supported, included, belonging even. In fact, I would hire happy people. But I wouldn't hire people who expect me to make them happy.

How do you determine what makes people happy? How can you create a workplace that caters for everyones happiness needs? For some, happiness might be free coffee in the breaks. For others, it might be a promotion opportunity. Others might pefer a swimming pool in the workplace, or more pay, or a new challenging project to work on. For me, utter bliss would be free Chunky Monkey every day. Haha.

I think we have to be careful with the semantics of Corporate Social Responsibility. I believe the above article does hold some basic element of truth. People who are more positive in the workplace will certainly support better results delivery and will help create an environment in which everyone can do their best. This makes sense to me, and I can speak from experience. The opposite is also true. People who are generally negative are harder to manage, drain energy and reduce productivity. But let's not confuse this with trying to make people happy in the workplace. To the extent that it can be measured, happiness is an outcome and not an input. And I do not believe making people happy should be a serious element of any CSR strategy. Except on April 1st.

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

Friday, November 5, 2010

Where are the employees at #BSR10 ?

The biggest annual event on the CSR calendar is in its closing stages as I write. Regretfully, I could not make it this year but have been following an interesting tweet-stream and blog posts that have been appearing throughout the first two days, as well as videos from Fenton SHARE program. One piece of news from the conference is the BSR GlobeScan State of Sustainable Business Poll 2010  which summarizes a survey of 377 CSR professionals from BSR member companies, reporting that business leaders remain focused on sustainability, look to demonstrate the benefits of sustainability and believe innovation is the key to success in the future. Interestingly, when asked about the focus of the company's CSR/sustainability efforts over the next 12 months, the highest score in the "very significant issue" category was worker's rights (32%) followed by human rights (31%) , both ranking higher than climate change (27%). Even more interestingly, when asked what the most important action to build trust in business should be, respondents gave a range of replies, with the highest (54%) relating to demonstrating positive social and environmental impacts and the lowest score (7%) saying that they should align lobbying with sustainability goals. Hmm. See the full list below and then I will tell you what I think.

Personally, I think that the most important action to build trust in business is creating and embedding a sustainability culture and practice in the business. I think that when a company can truly confirm that every single employee knows what sustainability is, why it's important, what its company's strategies are, how it affects their specific role and what they need to be doing to align their everyday decisions and actions with the sustainability agenda, then a company will be in a position to regenerate or maintain trust. Measuring impacts, reforming executive compensation or focussing lobbying are of themselves not trust drivers, even though varying percentages of 377 CSR professionals think they are. All of the points on the trust-building list above either require the complete commitment and engagement of the company's total workforce, or are simply a diversion of focus. The way to build trust is first to engender trust within your business, and then leverage that to encourage trust externally. Your business, however, is not its brand. It's its people. People make business, people make brands, people make decisions, people make choices, people make sustainability. I look forward to the day when we will finally see a broadscale realization that the best of strategies can only be delivered with the best of people who are knowledgable about sustainability, motivated to change and committed to sustainable outcomes at every level of any organization.

Which brings me to another point. The #BSR10 Conference  agenda . Very impressive. Emerging markets, energy innovation, emerging economies, feeding the future population of 9 billion in 2050,  financial inclusion, biomimicry, sustainability ratings, integrated reporting, green ICT, company CSR management systems and more. All big issues of the day requiring leadership, partnership and a new order of capitalism. BUT  (you knew there was a BUT coming, didn't you?), where are the employees? Talk of advancing human rights and worker's rights in (third party) supply chains is only a small part of this story. Where is the session that talks about engaging all employees in the business to drive the sustainability agenda? Where is the bold CSR/Human Resources team that presents the way it drives internal engagement ? I looked down the list of around 130 speakers and found only one from the Human Resources function: Cathy Murphy, VP HR of Blue Shield Operations, who was speaking in a session on Health and Wellbeing, which appears to be more about promoting healthier lifestyles in external communities as part of a company's sustainability platform than about internal workforce programmes.

I wonder how many Human Resources executives attend BSR ? I wonder how many feel it's relevant to their role ?  All the BSR member companies surveyed are large organizations with HR functions (I assume), probably fairly weighty ones at that. Probably quite a few VP HR people on the senior exec teams. Were they at the conference ? Are they aware that worker's rights and human rights are the key issues that their leadership sees for driving sustainability ? Do they know what their role is in advancing a culture where these aspects of sustainability can be adequately addressed? And why were they not on the BSR agenda, speaking, sharing, debating, learning?

As far as HR people are concerned, you know my answer: It's time for HR to wake up to CSR!

As far as BSR is concerned, well, perhaps it's time for BSR to wake up to HR!

I look forward to the BSR 2011 conference ensuring this aspect of sustainability gets the positioning on the conference agenda that it deserves.

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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

CSR and employee engagement in Peru

I am always happy to hear from readers of my blogs and this time, I received a very positive story of CSR and employee engagement from Elliot Carmean of AMGlobal Consulting and Sarah Hahn of Waggoner Edstrom Worldwide.

This is what they wrote:

"Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) often overlook Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), assuming that a program of social outreach falls solely in the realm of large organizations and is therefore beyond their reach. However, SMEs have much to gain from CSR initiatives, and in some ways can benefit more directly and in less time than larger organizations. The key lies in connecting a company’s core business with its core target markets and its most important ambassadors – its own employees.

Results show that CSR efforts are most successful when they are aligned with the core business of a company. However, often the most organic way to make CSR effective, efficient, business-driven is to use a participatory approach in which employees of all levels take part in the design and implementation of a firm’s CSR initiatives.

Employee engagement is an untapped resource that adds authenticity to CSR, is a very cost effective way of creating change, and can lead to new and creative solutions. Small companies in particular can easily find ways to leverage their relationship with their employees to positively impact their communities. After all, relationships at a small company – between management and employees, between employees and the markets they serve – are more intimate. Employees can function as ambassadors to the streets outside the factory gate, as they know what their communities need and want.

Employee engagement was at the center of a forward-thinking CSR program designed by AMGlobal Consulting for Comercia, a medium-sized distribution company based in Peru, privately owned, with less than 500 employees. Comercia was emerging from a period of change, with new management, ambitious goals for increasing sales and reducing employee turnover, and little budget for marketing its products. The company needed to connect more with its customers and employees.

AMGlobal designed a program that, over the course of just a few months, reached out to Comercia’s workers, clients, managers, and suppliers to create an inclusive CSR initiative that covered all of these pain points at the same time. The key to this process was communication, beginning with soliciting suggestions and feedback from employees and rewarding them for ideas used, practices that are still not common in Latin America. Simple, inexpensive, non-traditional channels of communication like internal surveys, suggestion boxes, an online company newsletter allowed management to work more closely with employees to create an appropriate CSR program for Comercia’s needs.The program was designed with ongoing employee feedback and included volunteer opportunities based on the nutrition of the company’s own products. The program quickly became a source of pride and a cause of enthusiasm for employees, creating real improvements in morale and employee satisfaction.

Employee engagement continued through subsequent stages. With the close of phase one of the program, management of the initiative was transferred to a new team that included fewer managers and more workers from different levels of the company, leading to greater sustainability. The process provided new leadership opportunities within the firm while raising the profile of Comercia and its sales team in their communities. In areas where these programs have taken place, sales are up more than 30%, workers are happier and more engaged, and the company is poised for future growth. Read more about this project here .

To date, hundreds of families have been reached with nutrition education and have received food donations and nutrition information from the company. New people continue to rotate into the team so that it becomes yet more dynamic and increasingly sustainable, as well as reaching more people within the company. Employees are participating in the program at high rates and have had the ability to be involved in decision making, including employees not traditionally in management positions. The program also developed more two-way internal communication  including an internal company website, suggestion boxes, a company newsletter, and concrete inclusion of comments and suggestions from the employees about business and social practices, all of which have become an integral part of internal and external relations.

The employee engagement model of CSR is highly replicable and is of huge value to SMEs, especially in emerging markets where CSR is still relatively new and must demonstrate quick returns in order to justify funding. Integral to that success is an ongoing dialogue with all levels of employees and the community. By connecting to the bottom line and to employees from the start, soliciting feedback and using the information to design a meaningful CSR program, SME’s like Comercia can create a positive, sustainable impact.

I asked Elliot about how they measured outcomes of this project i.e. given all of this investment in nutrition education, was there any evidence that people were improving their nutritional intake and health ? Elliot replied as follows:

In order to teach the people about nutrition and provide real expertise in this area, the program brought in a local nutrition institute as a partner. They track health and nutrition levels across the city, but these are long-term issues that involve ongoing measurement and it is too early to have long-term data. We did both pre- and post-program surveys measuring the participants knowledge of nutrition issues, and these surveys showed real improvement as a result of the seminars they attended. The program is too new to be able to evaluate longer-term effects on nutritional behavior, but it was clear that the messages of the programs were being received."

I liked this story. It is probably representative of many initiatives to engage employees through the prism of CSR and I am convinced that there is benefit here. In the case of Comercia, it was much more than a necessity. It was about survival, or sustainability, of the company.

Thanks to Elliot and Sarah for contributing this case study.

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

People Matter Engage

The World Businesss Council for Sustainable Development (WDCSD) has just published a very interesting paper as part of a project called People Matter on how to engage employees in sustainability and why it is important that you should. Maya Forstater (@MForstater) collaborated on the writing of this paper and alerted me to the publication. Thanks Maya!

"People Matter is a project to explore the link between talent skills and sustainability.Through this project, leading companies are sharing experience and developing thought leadership on how to prepare, engage, train, motivate, reward employees around sustainable development. This first in a series of issue briefs focuses on the links between employee engagement and sustainability. It is an introduction to the topic, presenting the business case and highlighting best practice. It is designed for sustainability experts as well as human resources leaders in their quest to understand what sustainability challenges and opportunities mean for their work."

The report stresses the need for creating a "sustainability culture" which I agree is an imperative for all businesses and writes: "Creating a culture of sustainability means ensuring that everyone in the company, from the expert to the shop floor worker, understands what sustainability means to the business, has a voice, feels involved and proud of his own contribution."

The report highlights 5 key elements in the business case for engaging employees in sustainability:

**Behaviour change by employees in all they do in the business
**Innovation motivated by an understnding of sustainability and concerns of employees
**Attraction and retention of sustainability minded employees
**Motivation and productivity - "when business has a purpose, employeees are motivated"
**Reputation - "employees can strenghten or damage brand reputation"

The evidence for engagement  (>> engaged organizations make more profit >> sustainability themes positively influence engagement)  are listed in the report. However, intiutively correct though this may seem, I always look at these survey results and wonder if the practice matches the theory. I am still waiting for one piece of research that shows that employees in a sustainable business actually are more productive, that employees actually join a business due to sustainability factors, that innovation actually is enhanced though a sustainable culture. Where is the evidence that, of all those people who say they want to work for a sustainable company, a certain percentage of them actually DO and that they also stick around ? This WBCSD report doesn't address this, despite the report being produced as a collaboration between 60 WBSCD member companies who are to a greater or lesser degree, sustainability practitioners and should have evidence of this in their own back yard. 

The report goes on to outline the ways in which companies can engage employees in sustainability - some good ideas are presented. Points I would add to the list which is mainly around communications and training tools  include sustainability themes in workplans or target setting or performance reviews  - these are some of the most fundamental ways of ensuring engagement.

The report includes three case studies from TNT, Nokia and Unilever.  The case studies offer some sense of positive outcomes such as at TNT: " Managers now report they are winning tenders because of the company’s environmental performance. They also say sustainability has become an important factor in securing employee loyalty and attracting high potentials." . Tangible or quantitative outcomes were not included in the other two case studies. I would have liked to see a report of this nature that is based on the actual practices of companies include some real hard numbers business outcomes as a result of inspiring employees in sustainability. Perhaps the following papers in this series will touch on this.

However, as the report concludes " Starting the conversation is the most important first step" and I agree that more companies should be having more conversations with their employees about sustainability and more importantly, how employees as stakeholders convert the impacts of the business ON employees into positive sustainability impacts OF employees on all stakeholders. In the light of this, this report is a good addition to the body of knowledge on this subject.

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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Writing lots about CSR for HR

The first official  local launch of CSR for HR will be in Israel on 31st October at the Annual Conference of Maala - Israel's Business for Social Responsibility. I will launch the book at the session in the conference relating to CSR and Human Resources, and we will be raffling off 5 free copies.Hope to see a few readers of this blog there, though I know that most of my readership is outside Israel. This is our poster announcing the raffle:

In the meantime, you are invited to read a piece which apppeared in the Guardian Sustainable Business Blog today, referring to the fact that HR Managers should hook into overall business sustainability strategy and add value. Read the full post here. 

I have also finished editing a 4,500 word article which will appear in the December print edition of Personalfuehrung, a leading German HRM Magazine  and another 2,000 word article for Ethical Corporation Magazine. All articles are not only different in length but also in focus and content, depending on the specific requests and preferences of the publication.

No-one warned me that when you write a book, you have to write almost another book about the book. Haha. At least, CSR for HR is a subject I like to write about. Fortunate, eh ?

And whilst I am here, I will mention an interesting post on a leading HR blog penned by Cathy Missildine-Martin who shares her take-out from four (yes FOUR!) HR conferences she recently attended. She talks about new competencies, predictive analytics and business acumen as being the prime areas of focus for HRM development which come through as key themes. Naturally I couldn't help adding my mantra. It's time for HR to wake up to CSR!

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

CSR for HR contributing consultants

WOW! CSR for HR is now in print, and I was actually able to hold a real copy for the first time yesterday. That's a good feeling! Greenleaf Publishing have done a wonderful job with the design and content editing. I truly hope the book will be widely read by HR and CSR professionals and that it will make a diference by changing the way some of them think about their roles. In the meantime, time has come to pay tribute to the many contributing consultants , each experts in their own fields, without whose collaboration I would not have been able to produce such a comprehensive piece of work. I will mention them in order of the appearance of their contribution in the book (like in Hollywood movies) but all were equally important. I have already listed the companies that appear in the book and why.

Ellen and Carol are seasoned professionals in sustainability communication and learning, and help organizations engage employees in their sustainability goals and initiatives to drive long-lasting change. Ellen has worked with several Fortune 500 Companies and Carol was a formerly VP, EHS at Pfizer. Both got their heads together to contribute a very informative article on sustainability and employee engagement for Chapter 3. Oops! no Twitter account, but don't let that fool you, they are very much in the frame.

Ellen founded sustainability recruiting to fulful the needs of socially responsibile businesses, bringing more than a decade of experience as a consultant with organizations including large multinationals, start-ups and SME's . She runs sustainabilty jobs research and her reports are a leading authority on the state of the sustainability job market. Ellen contributed data and perspectives for the chapter on Recruitment, Diversity and Inclusion. She tweets at @SustainabilityJobs.

Chris and Angela are the experts on corporate employee volunteering. They run a consulting firm called Realized Worth. Chris and Angela provide training and hands-on involvement in the design and implementation of outstanding and sustainable employee volunteer programs for businesses. We all collaborated in writing the entire 30+ page chapter on Employee Volunteering Programs. The concepts and models contributed by Chris and Angela were invaluable. They tweet at @Realizedworth.   

Deborah is president of Green Impact, a strategic environmental consulting practice that helps companies engage employees, strengthen their relationships with stakeholders, develop profitable green initiatives and commuunicate their successes and challenges. She tweets at @greenimpact. Deborah is also a prolific writer, often on Triple Pundit, on related topics, specifically Green Teams and their contribution to the business. In CSR for HR, Deborah is featured with  two fascinating articles on the subject of Green Teams.

Who doesnt know Julie ? She is the most ubiquitous and talented green writer on the web. Taiga Company is "oxygen for your business" and as founder and managing partner,  Julie consults, blogs, and speaks with businesses leaders to help them address the green/sustainability interest and pressures in a way that makes sense and strengthens the organization by capitalizing on opportunities and mitigating the risk. Julie contributed a piece on employee commuting and bike-friendly offices. Julie tweets at @TaigaCompany.

Cathy is a consultative professional who uses a strrengths-based approach to driving enterprise-wide workforce strategies and programmes that have positively impacted both performance and the bottom line. She has worked with, amongst others, Cengage Learning, Warner, Gartner and GE Capital. Cathy contributed perspectives on organizational cullture and CSR. Cathy was also amazingly helpful in the final stages of the book preparation, reading my draft manuscript (under time pressure) and offering many useful comments and pieces of advice. I owe Cathy a particularly deep debt of gratitude. Cathy tweets at @Cathyj131.
Thank you to all the contributing consultants!!! I hope potential readers of CSR for HR will gain as much from their insights as I did.

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

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Embedding sustainability in organizational culture

The Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) and Canadian Business for Responsibility (CBSR) have produced a very good document providing a framework for embedding sustainability in organizational culture, and offering best practices from a range of organizations. The model they present is Jay Galbraith's Star Model, which I know well as I attended a Leadership Program in the USA some years ago where Jay Galbraith presented his Star and ran a workshop on how to use it.  It's a good model, based on a 5-point star with elements for driving organizational change at each point: Strategy, Structure, Processes, People, and Rewards.  It is not dissimilar to the McKinsey 7S Model which I have a slight preference for because that model places shared values in the middle, and values always have to be at the root of change. But the Star Model is a good framework too and a little less complex to work with. 

The NBS-CBSR document breaks the Star Model down into individual components and gives practical examples of what has worked in Canadian businesses. The framework is designed for use by Sustainability Professionals and yes, you guessed it, Human Resources Managers. It's well worth a look. Download here.

It's time for HR to wake up to CSR!

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

Friday, October 1, 2010


Want to try your luck ? Bit of a gambler at heart ? Like getting things for nothing ? Love books ? Interested in CSR  and HR ? Prepared to give it a shot ?  Haha. OK.

Step One:

Step Two:
Read the article called Delivering a Smarter and Sustainable HR Advantage.
(OK, this is a recommendation, you can skip it if you dare. Haha)

Step Three:
Click on the banner that looks like this one below  (you have to go to the site to click, the link won't work from here, I just copied it for illustration purposes, to be helpful, you know, I do my best)

Step Four:
Fill in your details (it's not too demanding). Click "submit" .

Step Five:
Wait patiently until 28th October until the winner is pulled out of the hat by the people at Kelly Services at . They will inform you if you are a lucky winner.

Step Six:
If you win ... read the book and let me know what you thought of it :) ( or :(   )
If you do not win, oops, sorry about that, but please order the book and read it anyway.

DISCLOSURE: As I am the author, I get a free copy anyway. YEAH! So, in order to be fair, I did not enter this draw. Gotta give and take a little in life, right ?

PS: THANK YOU to Kelly Services at for running my article and promoting the book, and to Greenleaf Publishing for their generous support.

Step Seven:
Time for ice cream. Oh, and whilst you are indulging, take a look at the rest of the smartmanager website, it has some pretty interesting content.

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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

CSR for HR Chapter One FREE download

Yep.. the pace is hotting up ... I have now been invited to speak about CSR for HR  at conferences/professional meetings in Washington DC , Singapore and London ...  as well as several requests for articles  in many different publications. Whilst I am not sure I will be able to travel everywhere (travel budget definition: small), I have tentatively committed to one engagement and we will see how we go with the rest. Haha. Not spilling the beans just yet as to which one :). What is more important is that this is a good indication that CSR for HR is an interesting message. Maybe HR is waking up to CSR, after all.

Anyway, the real reason for this post is to tell you that my publisher, Greenleaf Publishing, a leading CSR and sustainability publisher,  for whom I have the greatest  admiration and respect, (they are doing a wonderful job and are so easy to work with) , have now made Chapter 1 of CSR for HR available.

Yes, Chapter One is a free download!

Better do it quick just in case they take it back haha.

Oh and don't forget to "like" the CSR for HR Facebook page . All "likes" will be gratefully received.
(I have promised myself that I can have a self-indulgence session with my favourite ice-cream for every 50 "likes" that CSR for HR gets on FB. OK, make that 10.)

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, 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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