The challenge to many HR executives is formidable – placeÂ an increased emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) while ensuring a connection to business results. Â This is simple enough to state, but reasonable questions are often raised when preparing to execute a holistic CSR strategy. Â Should HR lead by example or policy? Â Is CSR participation optional or mandatory? Â Does “good” CSR positively impact recruiting, retention and referrals, and if so, how? Â What are the hard and soft benefits of a properly aligned CSR strategy?
As you can likely surmise, this is a broad topic with numerous implications. Â In an attempt to narrow the conversation, I’ve captured three distinct perspectives for your consideration.
1) Linking CSR to MBA Recruiting:Â
The Stanford Graduate School of Business reported on a recent studyÂ which found that, “the future business leaders rank corporate social responsibility high on their list of values, and they are willing to sacrifice a significant part of their salaries to find an employer whose thinking is in synch with their own”. Â When asked to quantify their commitment to CSR,Â respondentsÂ said, “they would sacrifice an average of $14,902 a year, or 14.4 percent of their expected salary” for those organizations which embodyÂ caring for employees, caring for stakeholders, environmental sustainability, and ethical business conduct.Â Â Â
2) Sourcing CSR via Incentives and Employee Engagement:
Elizabeth Seeger, Project Manager with the Corporate Partnerships Program of the Environmental Defense Fund, finds innovative organizations sourcing concepts from employees and linking compensation to CSR performance:
“In my conversations with companies, a lot of them are finding that their best CSR ideas and most of the motivation for CSR related activities are coming from their employees. Â Many companies have set up hotlines or some way to get ideas from employees to management.
Also from the HR perspective, companies are starting to tie environmental (and perhaps) social performance to compensation. Â I met with a company doing this the other day and they’ve been able to drive significant performance improvements and reduce costs through better efficiency. Â This will become increasingly common, I think, as we enter a carbon-constrained world and start dealing with water scarcity and waste issues”Â
3) CSR’s Impact on Brand and Brand Equity:
For those of you just getting started, consider purchasing Kellie A. McElhaney’sÂ Just Good Business: The Strategic Guide to Aligning Corporate Responsibility and Brand.Â Â As Executive Director and Adjunct Assistant Professor of the Center for Responsible Business at Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley, McElhaney emphasizes seven principles for building CSR into your brand, with two HR-centric examples below: Â
“Get a Good Fit: It’s tough to select just one social or environmental cause to champion when every one is worthy, needed and critical. Your job is simple: Pick a social or environmental challenge for which you own part of the solution (or helped to cause it). For example, tackling homelessness and partnering with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit that builds houses, is a perfect fit for appliance-maker Whirlpool. It behooves Whirlpool to have as many homes as possible buying their home appliances.Â
Work from the Inside Out: To employees who are educated about it, CSR is like a drug: Give them a little, and they’ll want a whole lot more. Start by educating your employees about your CSR strategy. Your employees are not only your biggest (and most efficient) brand ambassadors; eventually, they may come to you with better CSR ideas and strategies.”
Regardless of your current level of CSR competency, current and future employees will place increasing demands upon HR for answers. Â Prepare yourself, study the literature, seek assistance from your peers and open up communication channels from within. Â If done well, CSR can prove to be one of the most rewarding endeavors of your human resources career.Â
Let’s keep the conversation (and CSR) going.