Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ralph Thurm reviews CSR for HR

There's somethng wonderful about reading a great review of a book you have written. It's more than feeling great about getting positive feedback. It's more about the fact that, when someone takes the time to read a book, and is driven to write about it afterwards, you feel that your efforts have not been in vain and that your message is getting through. I have been fortunate in that many respected and accomplished people have read and reviewed CSR for HR, and the most recent is Ralph Thurm.

Ralph is a mover and shaker in sustainability. He is a leading professional in sustainability strategies, operational sustainability and sustainability reporting. With more than 20 years experience working for major corporates, industry federations, governments and NGOs all over the world, Ralph adds value as a consultant, trainer, moderator or writer on a huge variety of sustainability topics. Ralph spent years as a sustainablility leader with Siemens, three years as Chief Operating Officer of the GRI, and is currently Director, Sustainability Strategies at Deloitte in The Netherlands. Ralph is always at the centre of whatever is going on in sustainability circles. Read his post about his meeting with Al Gore and you can get a sense of the breadth of Ralph's appreciation for core issues, or read his entry in the Harvard e-book on Integrated Reporting (part VIII - perspectives on an action strategy, page 218),  and you get a glimpse of his vision and hopes for corporate sustainability and reporting strategy.

"If one looks at the development steps of CSR in the last decade it became painfully clear that the paradigm change towards sustainability needed to be implemented in all company’s functions. Overcoming the silo thinking to empower better and a more holistic awareness-building and integration of CSR was/is obviously needed if an organization will also thrive in the future. All in all we need to admit that we have been extremely busy with the technicalities part of this task, often forgetting the people part of the story. It is so easy to believe that if an organization has done its homework on management systems, data systems, governance, reporting and measurement, one could wait for the outcomes to simply come as a given. One of most often forgotten pieces in the puzzle was the Human Resources function of an organization.

Finally there is help! Elaine Cohen, one of the most active bloggers in the field, living in Israel, and running Beyond Business Ltd., a small CSR consultancy there, has created an enormously useful baseline through her book ‘CSR for HR – A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices’, a must read for everybody who either works in the HR function and wants to develop a view on how to support CSR in their daily life, or for everybody outside the HR function looking for arguments why the HR function has an important role to play and needs to overcome some genuine mental stereotypes.

Elaine uses a nice plot for a whole array of protagonists that would argue for and against a role of HR in CSR: her main protagonist Sharon is actually one of those. Over a couple of weeks Sharon goes through a metamorphosis from being an HR Manager and more and more becoming a CSHR Manager. The nice way of telling the story in a plot like this is that more or less all arguments that one could run against in this challenging metamorphosis comes back in the book, and in that sense delivers refreshing yet convincing arguments any reader can use from the next day onwards.

Another important point to make about Elaine’s book is that she has interwoven the plot with a lot of readymade materials (slides, checklists, book summaries and articles) that can be used as blueprints for readers to start their own pilgrimage. In essence, reading Elaine’s book saves the reader a lot of time reading other articles and books.

One of the main takeaways also having read Michael Porter’s newest article ‘Creating shared value’ in HBR 1/2011, is how the book already plays very well into the needed change that HR also needs to make, namely the shift form ‘HR as an impact ON staff’ towards using the HR function to ‘create an impact OF staff’.
To sum it up: Elaine Cohen’s book is the right book at the right moment, written in a very useful way that makes it ‘ready to use’ from day 1 onwards. There is no excuse any longer for HR practitioners to ignoring CS’HR’ due to the lack of a ‘cooking book’ of recipes. The roadmap how to embed is included in the book as well – of course! "

I would like to express my thanks to Ralph for reading and reviewing CSH for HR.  I am sure his influential voice will help spread the message that 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

Thursday, February 3, 2011

CSHR gaining ground in Italy ?

CSR and HR appear to be converging in Italy, according to research from the CSR Manager Network in Italy, which can be downloaded here, for those of you that speak Italian. The only word I know in Italian is gelati. Ha-Ha. Thank you to James Osborne of Lundquist who posted news of this research on Justmeans, here.

The research, surveying 48 CSR Managers and 41 HR Managers in leading Italian companies,  concludes that : "CSR Manager and HR managers share a strategic approach to sustainability. Sharing an interest in sustainability as a strategic element can be a starting point for closer collaboration between CSR and HR manager."  (sic. Care of Google Translate, reasonably coherent, for a change).

Apparently, 87.5% of CSR Managers and 80.5% of HR Managers consider CSR as strategic for the enterprise. (Only 87.5% of CSR Managers? Sounds like the other 12.5% should be looking for a new job). The research says it is reasonable to expect that HR Managers will seek more active partnerships with CSR Managers to progress sustainability issues. 

The main areas of convergence appear to be recruitment, training, employee wellbeing and aspects of employability. Interestingly, the research shows that collaboration between CSR and HR Manages tends to be on the basis of informal personal relationships rather than a structured organizational process approach. Which is fine as long as everyone gets along. Sort of. Unless processes are formalised into a systematic way of doing things in the business, there can be no guarantee that they will be sustainable or sustained.

A disturbing thing is that both CSR and HR Managers appear to hold the view that CSR is about responsible management of people within the organisation i.e. employees. I take a different view. I believe the new CSHR role, the role of the CSR-minded HR Manager in the development of a CSR-enabled culture adds value because it specifically goes beyond the internal aspects of managing employees responsibly. The CSR-minded HR Manager should be considering external stakeholders as well as internal ones in determining HR policies and practices. Most of what HR does has a massive indirect impact, well beyond the employees that receive paychecks from the business, on families of employees, minority groups, employee representation associations,  local communities, suppliers, professional service providers, municipalities,  environment and more. If all that HR does under the guise of CSR is more training, more employee welfare and more outplacement, then I believe they are missing the point of CSR and will fail to realize the fabulous strategic value that CSHR can add.

Here is the graphic from my book, CSR for HR, that shows the difference between CSHR and HR management. 

HR Managers need to work out how to manage the traditional HR functional roles with a CSR mindset, and also adopt and adapt to the new remits that can be best driven with HR leadership. CSR Managers need to realize the imperative of embedding CSR culture and working with the HR function in order to do that.

Dr Stephen R Covey  (hint: 7 Habits)  said that things are created twice: first in the mind and second in practice. The first is what you think, the second is what you do. I am pleased to see this research that shows what CSR and HR Managers are thinking. This is good. If they are thinking strategic fit, this may be a precursor to both groups actually doing something about it. I am, however, still waiting for a piece of research that shows the "doing" part. How are HR Managers actually doing things differently?  Has HR really woken up to CSR in practice ?

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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