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

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