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
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