Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is no longer a just nice-to-have, it’s an essential part of doing business. Consumers are increasingly likely to make purchasing decisions based on your company’s CSR activity, and successful hiring often depends on the authenticity of your organisation’s values. In order to create a culture of corporate responsibility, it’s essential for HR to take a central role.
When HR is driving CSR within your organisation, every employee will take it upon themselves to uphold your values on a daily basis. This creates a self-regulating environment that stays true to your vision.
CSR needs to be reflected in all of your business decisions
CSR isn’t about putting on a good show for the public, it’s about considering the benefit that your business and its decisions can have on society. Even the smallest decisions can have an impact, which is why corporate responsibility need to be on the radar of every employee.
Unlike top-down policies which are often designed to mitigate risk, HR can provide a link between the issues that your employees care about and what the company can do to support them. This helps to make employees part of the solution, creates more individual responsibility and reduces the likelihood of mavericks damaging the company’s reputation.
When corporate responsibility is part of your company culture, it creates authenticity. People need to see that your business is committed to CSR through the actions that are taken on a daily basis, not just the public statements that happen once or twice a year.
CSR is not the sole responsibility of HR – ultimately everyone in the organisation needs to uphold your beliefs and values – but HR is the department that has most impact on recruitment, people management, and learning and development. It’s these activities that can ensure CSR permeates the entire business.
How to integrate CSR into your company culture
Involve your employees in the decision making process
There is no shortage of causes your company can focus on: inequality, education, the environment, and more. Instead of trying to split resources between all of them, you’re going to have a much bigger impact by focusing your efforts on just one.
Before you decide on the right cause for your organisation, it’s important to ask employees what issues they care about the most. One approach is to survey the entire company, which creates more buy-in from employees by making them part of the decision making process.
Employees are also an amazing source of new CSR initiatives. Create an easy way for them to submit ideas, and encourage this behaviour across the business. Once this becomes part of your culture, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever run short of ideas for new CSR activities.
Make CSR part of your employer brand
Millennials are already the largest generation in the US workforce, and will represent 50% of the global workforce by 2020. In order to attract them, CSR needs to be at the heart of your employer brand, especially when you take into account that “76% of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work.”
Talk about your CSR initiatives in interviews, mention them in job descriptions and do more to offer incentives that appeal to the altruistic nature of potential hires. You could offer time off for volunteer work, or introduce a policy to match employee contributions to charity.
A page on your website about CSR is important, but potential employees will expect your policies and internal behaviours to reflect your values once they’ve joined. If not, there is a risk of employees feeling disillusioned, which could lead to engagement issues in future.
Align manager training and development with CSR initiatives
Managers need to form part of your strategy for demonstrating a commitment to corporate responsibility. One of the ways that managers can contribute is by encouraging employees to make use of company CSR policies such as the volunteering and matched contribution ideas mentioned above.
With the right training, managers can also find ways to align individual work-related goals with company wide CSR goals. That could mean creating marketing campaigns that promote your product while also raising awareness about sustainability, or hosting customer events that also address the issue of gender inequality.
The growth of employee activism also provides an opportunity for managers to show support for grassroot movements. They can work with employees to develop their ideas and petition senior management to introduce new policies and initiatives that their team cares about.
Finally, there’s team building activities. This could involve everything from collecting plastic at the beach to volunteering at a food bank. At Peakon, we recently spent the afternoon building bikes that were sent to Africa to provide isolated communities with better transport.
Everything you do needs to be authentic
There are countless ways an organisation can contribute to society, but they all require the input of people that work there. When CSR is part of your culture and values, it creates an environment where people make decisions with the bigger picture in mind.
It’s this people-driven approach that creates authenticity, and in the process your employees are more likely to stay loyal to your organisation. When CSR is part of your hiring process, it also helps to create a self-sustaining cycle of corporate responsibility.
Most people can tell the difference between a company that genuinely cares about giving back and one that issues a well-crafted public statement. In order for CSR to become part of a company’s DNA, it needs to be reflected in your employees’ DNA. That can only happen when HR takes the lead and works on integrating CSR into the company’s culture and values.