Monday, September 10, 2012

HR : Time to Walk the CSR talk

Maybe the message is getting around. There has been a veritably flurry of articles about the HR function and CSR in the past week of so.

Rue Stanley, of EcoBusiness Exchange, says HR should board the bus before it's too late, saying that "HR can help with some of the major challenges that face organizations wishing to develop their sustainability programs."

Brian Kreissl, of Consult Carswell, says that "HR should care about corporate responsibility". He makes the point: "The HR profession’s desire to be taken seriously as a strategic business partner is also important because CSR is one of those areas where HR professionals can move out of their comfort zones and play a more strategic role."

China Gorman, top HR thought-leader, refers to the Effective Practice Guidelines paper on Sustainable HRM that I co-wrote, and talks to the importance of recognizing HR Stakeholders. She notes the range of HR stakeholders we identified and adds: "It was a good reminder of the breadth of the stakeholders that HR needs to factor into all of its work – whether it’s CSR, talent acquisition, talent management, benefits administration, strategic planning, learning and development – or yes, even the planning of the annual company picnic."
In the meantime, the situation is still an uphill challenge for HR.

A recent article in HR Magazine, UK, one of the best HR publications which always maintains an eye on CSR, notes that "HR decision-makers in the UK are paying lip service to diversity strategy, but they are not following this through with strategic action." This follows a survey of HR Managers in the UK.

Check out this data: "Looking specifically at the strands of diversity, although 82% said diversity and equality were either core to their business, a top priority or important to them, 16% are doing nothing to address age equality, 46% are ignoring sexual orientation, 37% are not addressing ethnic origin, 18% are not implementing gender equality measures, 19% do not have any disability initiatives in place and a massive 70% are not addressing diversity and inclusion dependent on nationality."

Knowing that something is important is not enough. Believing that something is right is not enough. If HR Managers want to be a credible and influential part of any organization, they have to walk the talk. If you want to discriminate, then say so. At least that's honest. Because everything you do that perpetuates a non-diverse culture is discriminatory. Complicity in allowing inequalities to exist in business and lack of encouragement for true equal opportunity means that discrimination and abuse of human rights is acceptable in your organization.

How many HR Managers see it that way? Not many, I suspect.  This is because, in part, they are not accepting accountability for the broader impacts of their role. This brings us back to HR Stakeholders. HR must look beyond employees and managers and also consider the impacts on society of HR decisions.
Yes, it's time for HR to walk the talk, board the bus and wake up to CSR! 

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability 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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