Friday, March 11, 2011

CSRI reviews CSR for HR

For those of you who don't know, (CSRI)  (Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility) hub founded by Wayne Visser, whose new book, the Age of Responsibility is just hitting the shelves,  publishes monthly reviews of a wide range of CSR books. Occasionally, I also contribute reviews from my CSR books blog. I was delighted and flattered to have my book, CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices included in the CSRI February Book Review digest. Registered (it's free) users can download  the monthly digests, and the February on in which the CSR for HR review is featured can be downloaded here.

The review was written by Matthew Maguire and goes like this:

"In CSR for HR: A Necessary Partnership for Advancing Responsible Business Practices, Elaine Cohen takes a ground-up approach to CSR that focuses on corporate engagement with individual employees. As Cohen says, “This book is both a wake-up call for the human resources (HR) profession and a tool-kit written to help members of that profession to act.” Cohen develops a concept she calls corporate social human resources (CSHR) that redirects traditional HR responsibilities such as organisational development, recruitment, training and compensation toward CSR goals and practices.

To build her case, Cohen tells the story of Sharon, a fictitious HR manager from a medium-sized firm, who, over the course of the book, transforms herself from a CSR novice to a powerful CSR advocate within her company. The narrative approach may be distracting for some readers, but it makes the material accessible for those new to CSR. The book is about more than what HR can (and must) do for CSR, however. It is also about how managers and employees learn about CSR and begin to change their behaviour, as well as the contribution that each employee makes toward a company's overall social and environmental impact. Unlike many CSR books out there, CSR for HR is not preaching to the choir. It is intended primarily for HR managers who may have heard of CSR but don't really know what it means in practice, or how it relates to the job they currently have. Elaine Cohen, currently co-founder and managing consultant of Beyond Business Ltd., has more than 25 years of experience in executive positions at various global companies, including 8 years as an HR executive at Unilever. As a result, she offers a unique insider-perspective that breaks CSR down into real terms.

Through her narrative, Cohen shows HR managers how to engage employees, develop corporate culture, and communicate progress through CSR reporting. The story is informative as well as inspiring. As Cohen tells us, “Sharon realizes she doesn't need to sit around and wait for her CEO or executive team to develop a comprehensive CSR strategy for the HR function.” HR managers interact with employees (a key stakeholder group) in innumerable ways. CSR strategy can come from the top down, but for it to really stick, the employees need to be ready for it. Cohen's book gives HR managers the information and confidence needed to open their companies up to the opportunities that can come from CSR. "

Thank you to CSRI and to Matthew Maguire for a great review !! 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, March 4, 2011

More women fix-its won't work

An interesting article in ABC News caught my eye with the headline: Top Companies push programs to help women in the workplace. Despite reports that women still lag behind men, and earn  only 80% of what men earn, some companies appear to have realized that more women = better results. The article quotes companies such as PwC, Johnson and Johnson, Wendys, Barilla and Sodexo as companies who offer "mother-friendly options" . Well that's great. Or is it ? The other half of the story is that no matter how mother-friendly, women-centric, gender positive, female flavored, women-inclusive or simply girl-heaven companies are, the fact is that all these "help women to be more available, more capable, more knowledgeable and more business-savvy or even more political" programs  are not doing any real sustainable good. In some cases, sure, it helps to have assistance with child care, or flexible working time and these facilities help women get a foot in the door. But what helps them advance in the organization is not women-oriented-fix-it programs. We looked at this in some research we did a while back, and found that this womenwashing is not effective.  Despite all these initiatives to advance women, women are not advancing. We analysed 100 companies and found 305 separate fix-women initiatives and only 10% of Board Members or senior executives who are women. 82 companies invested $$$$$$$$$ and time to fix women. But women still did not advance. And it's not because women can't be fixed. They don't need to be fixed. They are good enough. What needs to change is leadership, culture and male interest in advancing women.

The HR Manager must have a voice here. Checking off another fix-it program in the HR Managers busy-list is  a cop out and doesn't address the root of the problem. HR Managers need to have a stronger voice in expressing both the responsibilities of the company and the opportunities that women's advancement brings. How many HR Managers truly champion an inclusive culture ? How many HR Managers, many of whom are women themselves, go out on a limb to ensure the (male) leadership truly understands the value of gender balance at all levels ? How many HR managers measure the outcomes of women-friendly programs rather than the inputs?   It is time for HR to wake up to CSR!  And to truly inclusive workplaces.

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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