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 D├╝sseldorf, 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 "Personalf├╝hrung" 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
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