Friday, August 27, 2010

HR role in CSR, ethics at Yahoo, employees and crisis management

Great article in Human Resources Magazine on CSR and HR posted on Twitter by Michael Moore . The article is called Taking Resopnsibility - HR's role in CSR. Few quotes:

"HR’s role in CSR strategy varies depending on organisation, but in today’s increasingly ethical world, there are very few HR departments that are not required to get to grips with it."

"The task of implementing a fit and proper CSR program certainly gives HR departments a lot to think about, perhaps not helped by its ever-evolving definition. What is most important, though, is not trying to define it but actually engaging in a program in the first place. After all, the crux of any scheme is to do some good. So while CSR provides HR professionals with a tricky challenge but if tackled properly, with backing from senior business leaders, they can make a big difference to not only their business but the wider world, too."

And another interesting article in on the value of ethics training at Yahoo. This article describes the massive investment Yahoo has made to bring creative and fun ethics training to all its employees. Few quotes:

"Sooner or later, an employee’s going to do something they shouldn’t have,” he says. “If you have taken all the appropriate steps with code-of-conduct training, the penalty that will be imposed on that company will be dramatically reduced. That could be worth tens of millions of dollars.”

"Beyond legal costs, says Lynn Lieber, founder of San Francisco-based Workplace Answers, there’s the court of public opinion. There, a company can acknowledge that while it had “some rogue employee who did something wrong,” it can also say, “We ... have done everything we could.”

And yet another article: Why Employees Should Be at the Heart of Your Crisis Plan by Marcus Erb in Entrepreneur. The author gives examples from Eileen Fisher, Acuity and Ultimate Software. The conclusion:

The leaders of these three companies took an employee-focused approach when faced with tremendous challenges. In all cases, the efforts have paid handsomely. ACUITY is now profitable and growing with more than $2 billion in assets, and has also been recognized for 10 consecutive years as a best-run company by the Ward Group. EILEEN FISHER reduced expenses by 27 percent and experienced one of its most profitable years ever, so much so that the company was able to distribute year-end profit-sharing checks to its employees. Ultimate Software reached its Championship in 2006, and has been ranked by Forrester Research as the leading provider of human resource management solutions to United States companies.

So, all in all, better ethics, better crisis management and stronger HR-CSR leadership seems to pay off!
Yes, It is time for HR to wake up to CSR!

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The 10,000 step plan for organizational health

As part of my own personal sustainability plan, I am trying to achieve a personal record of 10,000 steps per day (from an average of about 5,000, though I haven't tracked this so far). Fortunately, I have a pedometer that I bought for my husband's birthday which he never used. (I must buy him more gifts like that). 

I was looking for a site that helps you track progress, rather than just a boring old Excel file, and came across . This is a great site which allows you to track your steps, log your progress, comment on your daily walking and even upload a foto! (I added the widget to the sidebar of this blog).

So what has this to do with organizations, CSR and HR ?
Well, by now we know that a healthy and fit workforce delivers better business results. has a program for organizations which enable groups to track their progress.An interesting article posted on the WalkerTracker blog gives the following data: 

“worksite health programs focused on lifestyle behavior change have been shown to yield a $3 to $6 return on investment (ROI) for each dollar invested.”

“It is estimated that employers spend $13 billion annually on the total cost of obesity. Approximately 9.1% of all health care costs in the United States are related to obesity and overweight. Workplace obesity prevention and control programs can be an effective way for employers to reduce obesity. They can produce a direct financial return on investment (ROI) by lowering health care costs, lowering absenteeism, and increasing employee productivity.”
“Return on investment – Canada Life in Toronto showed a return of $6.85 for every $1 invested in its Workplace Wellness program; while the Canadian government realized $1.95-$3.75 per employee per $1 spent.”
This seems to me to be both a minor investment, a lot of fun and an activity which can involve families as well as just employees (I often go walking with my husband and 8 year old son, or with my 12 year old daughter). It seems like just the sort of activity which can deliver great benefits for HR, for employees and for the business, with minimal admin time and fuss. And it doesn't need a full-blown sustainability strategy before it can get moving. It is something which is a good thing to do, no downsides, no sweat. (Well, a little sweat!) 
Of course, only an HR Manager with an CSR mindset would think about this, and start a walk-tracking program in their organization. If I were still an HR VP, I would supply pedometers for the entire workforce as New Year's gifts !  As I tend to repeat: It is time for HR to wake up to CSR!

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Eileen Fisher recommends CSR for HR

Amy Hall, Director of Social Consciousness at Eileen Fisher Inc.  was overwhelmingly helpful and provided me with much facinating and inspiring information about how Human Resources policies at Eileen Fisher are embedded into the culture of this private, socially responsible and highly succesful, growing Company. Eileen Fisher Inc.  has well-developed practices for ensuring that all employees are engaged in the mission and social practices of the Company. This is alongside many initiatives to advance women , uphold human rights,  and manufacture sustainably.  

"When new or potential employees first connect to our HR departments, we have an opportunity to show them something of the company culture. As a company with a strong CSR commitment, it is important to emphasize how these principles are integrated into all aspects of our company. Elaine Cohen offers compelling ideas for how to make that happen, beginning in HR and radiating out to all functions of the business."

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Friday, August 20, 2010

Using CSR in the War for Talent

Outstanding article tweeted by @mitsmr from the MIT Sloan Management Review:

By C.B. Bhattacharya, Sankar Sen and Daniel Korschun

originally posted in January 2008 but as true today as it ever was. Well worth the read!

A few select quotes:

"There is growing evidence that a company’s corporate social responsibility activities comprise a legitimate, compelling and increasingly important way to attract and retain good employees."

"Jim Copeland, Jr., former CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, puts it this way: “The best professionals in the world want to work in organizations in which they can thrive, and they want to work for companies that exhibit good corporate citizenship.”

"Our research indicates that CSR’s opportunity to serve as an effective internal marketing lever is limited by four related issues. First, companies often keep their employees at arm’s length, not communicating the extent and details of their CSR efforts in a clear and consistent manner. Second, companies formulate their CSR programs without explicitly considering the diverse set of employee needs that can be fulfilled by such programs. Third, companies do not fully understand the psychological mechanisms that link their CSR programs to anticipated positive returns from their employees (for example, pro-company behaviors, higher productivity, longer tenures and so on). Finally, we find that companies take a decidedly top-down approach in the formulation, execution and maintenance of their CSR programs, often mandating participation rather than involving employees on their own terms."

"Managers must seek to involve their employees in the planning, design and implementation of CSR programs, making them participants rather than onlookers"

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

A #CSR Siesta ?

The San Fransisco Chronicle reports that a new survey shows that people's energy wanes most in the afternoon hours and offers suggestions as to what to do get over the wall. Impossible things like planning ahead, eating well, smelling the roses. Roses? Do YOU keep roses in your office ?

As HR managers with a CSR mindset, this might be a good point to consider. If people's productivity drops significantly in the afternoon, it might be worth reviweing changes to work processes to allow for productivity dives and enable people to work at the times their biological clocks facilitate top performance. This serves both  the business and a core stakeholder group, employees. Realistically, no-one will plan ahead for their afternoon slump, and as for smelling the roses, that seems like a non-starter. So here is my list of things HR Managers with a CSR mindset can do to improve stakeholder responsiveness, contribute to better business results, and make the wolrd a better place.

Offer a CSR volunteer break: Allow employee volunteering hours in the afternoon, not after work hours or in the morning. Going out to help others is a sure way to release some of that latent adrenalin. And it will certainly boost your volunteer hours which will look good in your next CSR report.

Have a CSR report reading session. Basically, this will put everyone to sleep, which is good, because they will awake after an hour felling much more refreshed and ready to get the nose back to the grindstone.

Float an ethical dilemma : See who can provide the most sensible response. This has the added benefit of checking up who actually has read the corporate Code of Ethics.

Supply free helpings of Chunky Monkey to everyone. This won't boost productivity, but buying Chunky Monkey in bulk will lower the price so you can have MORE.

Offer a CSR Siesta: Provide mattresses for everyone to have a nap between 13:00 and 16:00. As long as they promise to dream about CSR-related subjects.

I would be interested in hearing from anyone that has a positive experience with any of my suggested solutions. But not between 13:00 and 16:00

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Christine Arena recommends CSR for HR

This is what Christine Arena, author of The High Purpose Company, and Cause for Purpose, two outstanding books on CSR best practices in corporations, and co-founder and CEO of a new start up called Sparkup, has to say about CSR for HR:

"This book gives HR and CSR professionals permission to be human. In fact, it goes so far as to suggest it might be integral to responsible business success. Get it, read it, share it!"

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dave Ulrich, HR guru, recommends CSR for HR

CSR for HR has now joined Facebook :)
Here is the Facebook page.

Dave Ulrich, leadership and world-renowned Human Resources guru says about CSR for HR:

"Cohen does an outstanding job showing the connection between HR and CSR. She shows how HR practices in staffing, training, compensation, job design, and culture creation can be adapted to further CSR work within a company. Her ideas are fresh; her examples are relevant; and her writing is clear. This book will be useful to any company working to advance sustainability, philanthropy, or work/life policies as part of their CSR agenda"

Dave Ulrich
Professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan
Partner, The RBL Group ( )

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Employee engagement down. CSR up.


Thanks to a tweet from @jenniwheller, I read this interesting article entitled: While The Economy Recovers, Employee Engagement Drops. In summary, the article shows the largest decline in employee engagement for 15 years, based on research by Hewitt Associates. The article says this "highlights the growing tension between employers--many of which are struggling to stabilize their financial situation--and employees, who are showing fatigue in response to a lengthy period of stress, uncertainty and confusion brought about by the recession and their company's actions." Given that there is a clear link between employee engagement and shareholder return, these results must be of (1) interest and (2) concern for members of the Human Resources profession.


However, the point I really wanted to make here was about the role of CSR-HR leadership in creating a reversal of this engagement slump. Hewitt offers six factors that differentiate Companies and support improving employee engagement : long term focus, leadership buy-in, measurable targets, understanding employee groups, utilize more analytics and involve all (internal) stakeholders.


Whilst all these are commendable, frankly, I do not believe these will create greater engagement. I believe a CSR mindset and CSR-HR driven activities will create greater engagement. With the exception of the last point about involving employees as stakeholders, which is a core element of CSR, I believe a socially responsible organisational culture, which is based on clear values and ethics, diversity and inclusion, open communications, attention to employee wellbeing, and opportunities for employees develop their potential and to serve communities are core ingredients to enhancing engagement. See also my review of Dave Ulrich's book, the Why of Work.

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

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my business website  (BeyondBusiness, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

AT LAST! an HR Director speaks out on CSR

Thanks to a tweet from @ben_c_richards, I took a look at the Lloyds Banking Group Corporate Responsibility Report 2009 and found, to my great delight, immediately after the Chairman's forward, an HR Director's introduction!!

This is a rare thing in a Corporate Responsibility report, that we see an introduction from a Human Resources person. It is rare that Human Resources people feature anywhere in CSR reports. There have been a few that I seem to recall recalling, but I cannot quite recall which ones I recalled . Ha-ha. However, the leadership shown by HR in CSR in this report is a good thing.

The HR Director of the Lloyd's Banking Group is Angela Risley, and she is also Chair of the CR Steering Group. Her introduction covers: the Bank's values; Creating a great place to work; Harmonising terms and conditions; Diversity and Inclusion; Nurturing Strong Links with communities, and Angela's outlook for the future in which she says:

"Executing our business strategy effectively will only be possible if we manage our most valuable resource, our people, well. Our people have the skills and capabilities to deliver the strategy and it is essential that we ensure we encourage, manage and develop our staff whilst creating a great place to work."

Lloyds clearly have an appreciation of CSR for HR. Let's hope this is the beginning of a new (tidal) wave of visible HR partnership in CSR-HR business practices and reporting.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my business website  (BeyondBusiness, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why HR needs CSR- sneak peek preview

I think there is cause for celebration! After several months with the publishers, CSR for HR : A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices is now in fully fledged edited and typeset draft form. My task now is to proofread and make sure everything hangs together and collect endorsements (you know, all really serious books have those :-)) from a select number of thought leaders around the globe. Over the next couple of months, all the details will fall into place and hopefully a really interesing and informative book will emerge. But as we have reached a milestone in this exciting process, I thought I would offer you a little bonus! haha. Here it is. The (almost) unabridged introduction as it will appear in CSR for HR. A little sneak peek preview.


Corporate social responsibility (CSR), a (largely) voluntary business approach that goes beyond the letter of the law and accepts accountability and transparency with regard to a business organisation’s impacts on people, society and the environment, has now become one of the main preoccupations of corporate leaders. Based on the fundamentals of good governance, ethics and compliance with the law, CSR offers additional opportunities for businesses to mitigate business risk, enhance business reputation and take advantage of new business developments. In adopting a CSR strategy, businesses can contribute not only to the sustainability of the planet, but also to their own sustainability as businesses. This approach is changing the way businesses develop strategy, take decisions, execute processes, engage with employers, consumers, external pressure groups and communities and respond not only to shareholders, but also to all stakeholders in different ways and through new channels of communication. Indeed, excellence in stakeholder engagement has become a key driver for sustainable business.

CSR has a role to play in response to huge global issues such as climate change and poverty and is transforming organisations, their professional capabilities and the skills needed to lead or even develop an adequate response. The low-carbon economy, for example, is just one area in which a host of new job functions requiring new expertise have mushroomed in businesses around the world. Job titles such as vice president for corporate sustainability, CSR director, corporate responsibility officer and many others are now a feature of most leading companies. Just ten years ago, these roles did not exist. There is now growing evidence that this is not a fad and that CSR is mainstream and not just something that companies do to look good. It is a fundamental cornerstone of long-term success, highly visible to a wider range of stakeholders than ever before, expected and rewarded by stakeholders if done well and punished by stakeholders if fake or tin-hearted.

The fundamental bedrock of a company’s ability to perform in line with the principles of sustainability, responsibility, accountability and transparency is its internal organisational leadership, values, culture, capabilities and communications. The talk today is about embedding CSR in all parts of the organisation. The prerequisite of having an employee community engaged in CSR strategy and practice is not negotiable. Leaders must ensure that their primary stakeholder group, the one that most influences the company’s business results and that is most influenced by the company’s business practices — its employees — understands, engages with and proactively advances the business CSR agenda.

For too long, CSR (or corporate social and environmental responsibility) has been seen as something companies engage with issue by issue: reducing the company’s carbon footprint; contributing to the community; or developing a cause-marketing programme. Many companies have now realised that these ‘projects’ cannot exist in isolation as stand-alone activities. There is an interconnectedness about such business activities that requires a discipline of total systems thinking and integration into the baseline culture of the way a business does business. This can only be achieved when a company educates, engages and empowers its entire workforce. The HR function is a critical partner in making this happen. Arguably, the HR function is the key partner in making this happen. This book proposes that the HR function has a responsibility to be proactive in leading the way in establishing a CSR-enabled culture within any business.

And yet, this is not happening. HR managers are preoccupied with their traditional roles of organisational development, recruitment, training and compensation, and are failing to see the opportunities that CSR brings for them as professionals, for their organisations and for global sustainability. HR professionals are just emerging from the transactional nature of their roles into the business-partnership transformation mind-set, and have not yet understood that the business focus has moved on to a level that requires CSR thinking and practice. For HR professionals to become true and valued business partners, a fundamental understanding of CSR and its interface with their function is essential. They need to move from a certain preoccupation with their own importance and achieve a higher level of stakeholder engagement. Paradoxically, the function in the organisation that should be leading cultural change for sustainability is the last to realise the role it must play. HR professionals must wake up to CSR and start learning how to do things differently. It is my expectation that, once they do, they will materially affect business results in a more positive way, and reap personal and professional benefits, catapulting the HR function, perhaps for the first time, into one that all businesses understand is necessary for them to thrive through the long term and fulfil their overarching responsibilities.

Change is not easy, and changing paradigms even less so. In talking to HR professionals, it is important to know how they think, what challenges they face and what obstacles they need to overcome, both in terms of their own mind-set and in terms of how they see their functional contribution in the organisation. My role as a country VP for human resources with Unilever over a period of eight years, as well as over 15 years of executive operational management experience in other (global) businesses, has enabled me to talk to HR professionals as a person who understands the business context, identifies with HR people and their needs, and has faced the challenges of operating as a member of an executive management team in a dynamic business. I know what it takes to get things done in HR. I feel the criticisms levelled at the HR function and the continuing professional search for a meaningful place in corporate dialogues and decision-making processes. I understand the dichotomy between profit centre and cost centre, and the need to prove that the HR contribution is cost-positive. I have felt the frustrations of wanting to advance HR processes without adequate tools to measure their financial contribution to business success. I have heard negative reactions of colleagues to the ‘psychologistics’ of organisational processes. I have debated with HR colleagues over the ways in which to ‘sell’ HR to management. The HR function itself is still uncomfortable with the way its role is regarded in organisations and conflicted about its ability to impact. I therefore understand the strong leap of faith I am asking of HR managers in presenting this book to them. HR has barely navigated the challenges of establishing the transformational HR role in organisations and here I am saying, ‘Wake up, CSR is here!’ For those that are open to it, my concept of corporate social human resources (CSHR) management may just provide the key to addressing many of the other fundamental insecurities of HR people and the inadequacies of the way HR impacts in organisations.

This book is presented through the eyes and mind of an HR manager. Most of us know the power of storytelling in getting messages through. This book leverages that power by telling the story of the metamorphosis of an ‘HR manager’ into a ‘CSHR manager’, whose HR practices are driven by a responsiveness to the needs of all HR stakeholders, which include society and environment. The chief protagonist in this story is Sharon, a fictitious HR manager to whom I became quite endeared as I wrote the book. Sharon has the good fortune to meet an experienced (fictional) ‘CSHR’ manager called Arena Dardelle, who begins to coach Sharon on the principles of CSR and how HR is impacted by them. During the months that follow, Sharon systematically and methodically works her way through each aspect of her role as an HR manager, identifying the interrelationships between CSR and HR, and finds, or develops, (with my help) tools for implementing the CSHR way. In relating Sharon’s challenges and opportunities, the book examines internal conflicts and questions about the relevance of CSR to HR and the possibility for HR to act in a new, purposeful way in the organisation. The dialogue reflects the many discussions I have had as an HR and CSR practitioner and the problems I have experienced with a wide range of HR managers in my role as a consultant to companies. Ultimately, and perhaps this is one of the most important insights to be gained from this book, Sharon realises she doesn’t need to sit around and wait for her CEO or executive team to develop a comprehensive CSR strategy for the HR function. She realises that there is much that she, as the professional guardian of organisational culture and capability, can and must do to establish the organisational readiness for a CSR approach and contribute to the advancement of business objectives in the meantime. Sharon’s methodological process forms a practical guide for all HR professionals, offering many cases and tools that can be used.

As Sharon embarks on her journey of discovery, she meets many ‘teachers’ along the way. While some of these are my own inventions, several are real-life professionals who generously agreed to contribute to this book from their own experience. The footnotes tell the full story. One such real professional is Ilana Atlas, Group Executive, People and Performance, Westpac Banking Group, Australia (now retired), who offered terrific insights into the synergy between HR and CSR in practice. Another is Nirit Cohen, HR Manager at Intel, who wrote an illuminating piece on the integration of CSR and HR at Intel.

Some HR managers may identify readily with Sharon, some a little less. In some cases, she might even seem a little ingenuous. I had to make Sharon a complete novice in the field of CSR at the outset in order to enable full discussion of the different concepts throughout the book. I hope I haven’t insulted anyone! However, I do feel that Sharon, once on board, becomes a model for the HR profession, so in that sense, I hope that HR managers will gain inspiration and a similar desire to respond to the wake-up call, as Sharon did.

The intended audience for this book is anyone practising, teaching, learning or aspiring to be involved in the HR function. The concepts and tools apply to all HR people, in organisations of all types and all sizes. Others will also find the book useful; for example, leaders of companies who are responsible for directing the HR contribution in the business, and managers who must partner with HR managers in order to deliver results. This book will serve as an aid to them to assist in determining what they should expect from their HR function. I also think that this book will appeal to CSR managers, practitioners and consultants and to all those involved in the sustainability transformation of business today. And this book might also appeal to anyone who simply likes a good business story with a happy ending!

One final point: there is much more that I could have included in this book. There are many more examples that I could have quoted, many more people that I could have interviewed or invented and much more material that pops up daily on my PC screen from my thousands of sources via the World Wide Web. As with any publication, the author must make trade-offs and set limits. My main limit was the time I had available to devote to research and writing and the deadline set by my generous publishers, Greenleaf Publishing, which I only slightly overshot! I apologise in advance for the fact that this is not a totally exhaustive guide. However, I believe it is the most detailed guide for the HR manager available today on this subject and as comprehensive as any HR manager needs in an initial exposure to CSR.

Found any typos ?

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website
Related Posts with Thumbnails