Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Time to put the HR in CSR

When I first wrote the book, CSR for HR, I thought of calling it something to do with CSHR, but everyone said "CSHR won't catch on! You can't use that!". I duly listened to all my learned stakeholders and call the book, CSR for HR. With hindsight, that's a better name anyway. However, I am pleased to see that the use of CSHR is catching on :), as evidenced in the article quoted below.  

The article is in HR Magazine and is entitled Time to put the HR in CSR. It was written by Anna Marie Detert, head of human capital at Buck Consultants, sponsor of the HR Leaders Club which I addressed in November.The article starts off like this:

"It is three years since HR magazine launched its Make a Difference campaign, urging HR directors to take a lead in corporate social responsibility. So has anything changed, asks Sian Harrington?

The world is considered a more corrupt place than it was three years ago. Trust in banks has declined dramatically. Employees at France Telecom and Foxconn have committed suicide due to work pressures. Meanwhile, the number of internal security breaches by staff has risen dramatically, while in 2010 alone, a third of large companies suffered deliberate misuse of confidential data.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a key element of managing risk and protecting and enhancing company reputation. But the facts above would indicate that businesses have not been taking corporate responsibility very seriously in the three years since HR magazine launched its Make a Difference campaign.

Last year's respected Trust Barometer from PR firm Edelman found that trust in business had improved slightly since 2007, but that the overall rise was minimal. The barometer (the latest of which is due out this month) also found for the first time that trust and transparency were as important to corporate reputation as quality of product and service - ranking higher than product quality in the US and much of Western Europe.

Meanwhile, a survey of 91,000 respondents from 86 countries last month by corruption monitor NGO Transparency International found that six in 10 people believed their country had become more corrupt and that the global financial crisis had undermined faith in economic institutions. Christopher Wasserman, president and founder of the Zermatt Summit, which campaigns for greater transparency and accountability in business, says business leaders need to take more responsibility and behave more ethically themselves to combat such impressions. "For stability to be restored and sustained, we urgently need to govern and run our companies with an ethical, transparent and accountable mandate, which needs to lead to a significant change in leadership behaviours - without which we are heading for further catastrophe," he believes.

Against this background, CSR Europe launched the Enterprise 2020 initiative in October last year. Some 70 global companies and 27 European business associations are involved in the initiative to create a sustainable future through examining various questions - from how to embed sustainability into a global supply chain to how to foster healthier lifestyles in the workplace.

More recently, IBM UK brought together thought leaders in business, government and academia as part of national initiative 'Start', developed by The Prince's Charities Foundation to promote and celebrate sustainable living. At the event Stephen Leonard, IBM UK & Ireland chief executive, said the coming decade had to be one of action and decision.

"Designers and architects are taught differently to businesspeople. When they design a chair, they do not just think about the chair, but the chair in the room, the room in the house, the house on the street and the street in the environment. This is the level and type of thinking we need in our people and skills if we are to have a long-term impact," he said.

Yet in all the discussion about corporate responsibility, there appears to be a major missing link - that of HR. Three years on from our campaign to encourage HR to take a leading role in embedding corporate responsibility into organisational culture, there is still, on the whole, a lack of buy-in. Yet HR plays a crucial role in ensuring the right corporate climate and practices that enable businesses to succeed in a responsible way.

"The big message is that it is time for HR to wake up to CSR," states former HR director Elaine Cohen, who has written a book on the subject, CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices. "

Anna Marie then goes on to describe the rationale for CSHR with commentaries from a range of HR practitioners and examples from Skills Venture, InterfaceFlor,  B&Q and others, and offering practical tips for HR Directors and a roadmap to CSR (from my book). Read the full article here.

I am of course delighted to see that the lingo is catching on, and hope that the HR professional community will also catch on. HR Magazine does a great job of bringing awareness of CSHR issues to the HR community, there is always a lot of content relating to values, ethics in business, responsible HR practices and more in the magazine. HR Magazine is a great resource for CSR, HR and CSHR Managers. With such a committed group of people behind the CSHR concept, I am confident 2011 will be the year that HR wakes 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 www.twitter.com/elainecohen  on Twitter or via my website www.b-yond.biz/en

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