Many organizations have invested in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs to restore trust among their shareholders, employees and customers and improve their corporate brand.
- What role does HR play in CSR and
- Does the profession need to take a more leading role in deciding the direction of organization’s CSR strategies?
CSR has its roots in corporate philanthropy, which go back to the 19th Century in the UK where the innovative working practices of Quaker organizations such as Cadburys and Rowntree Mackintosh put employee welfare and ethical behavior at the heart of their business values.
“The term ‘CSR’ became increasingly common in the 1990s, in particular when the spotlight was being focused on poor working conditions in global supply chains.” “CSR has its skeptics as well as its advocates, but the defining feature is that its activities and standards that companies voluntarily sign up for are separate from legal governance.”
Organizational attitudes to CSR have changed over the last ten years and the term is no longer an acronym which you can put into a box.
“The more we talk about responsible business practices the better. There are two broad aspects to corporate responsibility:
- One is the traditional focus on CSR which is what the organization does with the local communities in which it operates and environmental policies and,
- Second the activities which are core to the business and how they make their money.”
People play a central role in the value creation process, which is about understanding the way an organization works and the consequences of its activities.
“For example, how you treat your customers and how you treat suppliers ethically. If you define your value creation in narrow financial terms, you can develop this very far while maintaining a deep disregard for social responsibility.
Triple bottom line view focuses on long-term value creation and brings this together with a much wider stakeholder view:
- Socially Responsible,
- Environmentally sustainable, and
- Ethics is integrally linked to value creation.
HR profession has a three-fold role in CSR as many aspects relate to HR management:
- “HR needs to make sure people management practices are ethical and,
- Secondly, to embed corporate responsibility you need to give people the right support and training and HR has a role in learning and development side of that.
- The third aspect is embedding ethics into the organizational culture. That’s about being able at board level to ask the challenging questions.”
The HR function should be totally integrated into CSR.
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