Linking HR and CSR helps achieve organizational sustainability

A sustainable organization succeeds by renewing and replenishing its human and social capital. Doing this requires closing the gap between rhetoric and practice regarding corporate social responsibility (CSR). One step toward closing the rhetoric-practice gap is to unite HR and CSR.

Critics are right when they assert that CSR without HR is PR. For example, senior executives make time in their schedules to be on the local United Way board or other prominent community charities. The follow-through in terms of HR is when front-line employees know they also can get involved in fund-raising campaigns or other volunteer activities. That’s because the company’s emphasis on community service is reflected in adjustable workloads and flexible work arrangements that enable employees to take time to volunteer.

Also needed is a unified approach to HR and CSR strategies. Strengthening the HR-CSR link requires a transparent, values-based corporate philosophy that is applied rigorously in by all employees in all their working relationships, inside and outside the organization. At the heart of sustainable success is the integrity with which board members, managers and employees apply the organization’s core values in all decisions and actions. Consistency in this regard expands the possibilities for positively shaping the future of your organization – and society.

Because CSR has an external focus, its internal supports often get overlooked. Yet a company’s CSR practices depend on an enabling culture, supported by committed leadership. Equally necessary is how employees themselves contribute to and perceive these CSR practices. When companies showcase their carbon neutral footprint or close monitoring of human rights among third-world contractors, we also need to understand the role employees played in these accomplishments. And when an organization receives an outstanding employer award, we need to determine if this squares with its treatment of external stakeholders. This happens naturally in a culture that values the long-term goals of people, community and environment.

Providing an employee perspective on CSR makes sense, given that workers increasingly want green and responsible employers. A recent on-line poll of young Canadian workers discovered that most would consider leaving their current job for a more environmentally friendly employer. The kinds of companies that will be attractive are moving at an impressive rate to embed human and environmental criteria into how they conduct business and every step in the product or service chain.

It’s time to expand the triple bottom-line view of “people, planet, profits” by including how organizations can renew their human systems. A sustainable organization looks at its success in terms of what’s optimal for all stakeholders.