Step 8 - 10
Step 8: CSR Policy and Program Development
HR is also in a position to drive policy development and program implementation in HR areas that directly support CSR values. Wellness, diversity, work-life balance and flex-time policies are CSR programs directly within the HR manager’s purview. In organizations committed to reducing their carbon footprint HR practitioners can develop programs enabling employees to use alternative transportation to get to work (e.g. providing showers, secure bike lock-ups, parking spots for van pools and co-op or hybrid cars, bus passes, etc.) and work remotely, including other forms of headquartering and “hoteling”, teleworking, etc. Wellness programs can become a platform for engaging employees in discussions about “personal sustainability” and provide support for employees in the areas of stress management, spirituality at work, health and fitness, healthy lifestyles, etc. Employee volunteering programs are also within the HR mandate, and can help build out the employee value proposition and employer brand while concurrently delivering on the firm’s CSR goals for community engagement and investment. A related policy could be the development of an unpaid leave program for employees to pursue personal projects aligned with company values. Successful wellness, carbon reduction and employee volunteer programs require management support, role-modeling and ongoing communications – which, if in place become further vehicles to fostering employee awareness of, and engagement in, the firm’s CSR approach.
Some HR departments also have responsibility for procurement. Those that do could incorporate their CSR commitments into their purchasing program. By adopting a sustainable purchasing policy, and integrating their social and environmental objectives into supply chain management, HR practitioners can influence the sustainability performance of their suppliers. Benefits providers, recruiters, and other suppliers to the HR department can be asked to demonstrate how their practices align with the buyer’s CSR values. Request for Proposals (RFPs) can incorporate questions and requirements for a certain level of sustainability or CSR performance on the part of vendors, thereby cascading CSR into the supply chain as further demonstration of how the organization is walking its talk. (See BuySmart Network for tools, resources and examples of how to integrate sustainability into your purchasing programs.)
HR practitioners have a number of direct acupuncture points they can activate to leverage sustainable practices throughout the workforce and the economy more generally.
Step 9: Employee Communications
Every CSR strategy requires the development and implementation of an employee communication program to convey the corporate direction, objectives, innovation and performance on its CSR efforts. Intranets, websites, blogs, wikis, social networking sites, podcasting, videos, forums, townhall meetings, regular tream briefings, webcasts, voicemails, print and electronic newsletters and other forms of social media need to be deployed to bring the CSR message to the workforce – in ways that are attuned to the communication channels of the employee, which are changing rapidly in this age of web 2.0. Even role-modeling by executive and the HR department can be a useful tool fo communicating CSR values. The ultimate goal of CSR communications should be to engage employees in the CSR mission of the firm, to help build out the firm’s CSR DNA. It is important to note that employee engagement is dependent on communication of board, CEO and senior management commitment, in the absence of which employees will become cynical and unmotivated. Lack of CSR commitment at senior levels could lead to disgruntled and frustrated employees finding unmonitored, anonymous social networking sites to express their dissatisfaction. It is important to close this potential gap with clear communication and walking the walk on the part of senior executives. The Co-operators, for example, launched their 2008 – 2010 Sustainability Strategy with a CEO speech and CEO video to all staff.
One means to raise awareness of CSR on a regular basis, and to track perceptions and opportunities throughout the year is the “quick poll”. The Co-operators regularly polls its staff in this way, including these examples from 2008:
- Is your household eco-friendly?
- In the 2 minutes it takes for you to brush your teeth, how much water goes down the drain?
- October 19 – 25 is Waste Reduction Week. What is the top way your family reduces household waste?
- Which method of washing your dirty car wastes the least amount of water?
- It’s EarthDay. What’s the biggest sacrifice you’re willing to make for the environment?
- A locovore is a new term for someone who…?
- Do you expect to see the Arctic ice cap completely melted in your lifetime?
- Do you make a conscious decision to buy Fairtrade products?
Staff responses can help the organization identify miscommunications and the need for course corrections along the way. Such ad hoc, awareness raising surveys can be important proactive tools to foster and embed the CSR message.
Through employee communications, HR can find and profile success stories of CSR leadership within departments. HR managers are well positioned to share and bring to life the organizational stories that can become guideposts for CSR values in action within the company.
Whatever your approach, it is important to keep your CSR commitments alive in your corporate communications on a regular basis.
Step 10: Measurement, Reporting – and celebrating successes along the way!
As what gets measured gets managed, it is vital that both CSR performance and employee CSR engagement be actively measured and reported to executive, the board of directors and publicly. Typically this is done in the form of an annual CSR report. Increasingly, many of these reports are disclosing employee engagement scores, including employee response to such questions as:
“I am aware of and understand our CSR Strategy.”
“I believe the firm acts in alignment with its CSR values and policy.”
“I believe the firm is making progress towards implementing its CSR Strategy.”
“Our CSR Strategy makes me feel proud to be working at the firm.”
“I feel the firm encourages and supports me to contribute to CSR in the office/at the workplace/in our meetings.”
“I feel comfortable raising CSR issues in the workplace.”
“I believe our organization is a champion of sustainability amongst the public.”
Other human capital metrics, such as turnover, health and safety, employee development and diversity, for example, can be additional metrics which reveal the firm’s CSR commitment and the degree to which it walks its talk.
In designing your CSR report again it is important to consult employees on what to report and it is important that the report be received and approved by the board of directors for public release. It is only under these conditions can the HR professional be assured that these metrics and the firm’s CSR performance are taken seriously.
Some corporate boards go so far as to create a CSR committee of the board. This is a topic of its own (see, for example, “The Role of the Board of Directors in Corporate Social Responsibility” produced for the Conference Board by Strandberg Consulting), however, if the Board buys into CSR as a business differentiator and sees CSR as contributing to shareholder value, it warrants oversight by the full board of directors and if possible, by a CSR committee of the Board of Directors. The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) for example, has a board committee on Human Resources and Sustainability which meets regularly to review the organization’s human resource and CSR performance against its objectives. If the Board of Directors is in receipt of these performance reports, it is likelier that the CEO will be held accountable for the elements that bring the CSR strategy to fruition.
And finally, but no less importantly, don’t forget to celebrate the successes large and small along the way. From pats on the back to profile articles on the company intranet, to celebratory events, ensure people are congratulated and achievements celebrated on an informal and formal basis. To fully realize your CSR objectives, including the integration of CSR into “the way business is done around here”, it is important to honour the small wins and major milestones achieved on the journey.
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