Corporate social responsibility 'must be part of HR agenda'


A new paper from people management experts, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), argues that if it is to be credible, corporate social responsibility (CSR) must be positioned as a strategic issue for organisations – and human resources specialists need to be closely involved.

Mike Emmott, CIPD Employee Relations adviser and the author of the latest issue of Perspectives says that HR professionals need to play a key role in supporting corporate social responsibility initiatives by developing effective people management practices.

Says Emmott, "Despite being increasingly critical to business performance in many sectors, CSR remains of marginal interest to the HR profession. In fact the HR department is ideally placed to develop an organisation’s approach to CSR, which must involve promoting trust-based relationships with employees as well as other stakeholders. CSR does not change, but it certainly broadens, the HR agenda.

The paper says that the way a company treats its employees will contribute directly to how willing it is to accept its wider responsibilities. Emmott says that the challenge of CSR for organisations goes much wider than undertaking some non-commercial activities in the hope of improving corporate image.

"CSR requires management to address strategic issues about the aims, purposes and operational methods of the organisation. It has little time for departmental boundaries and means taking a holistic view. It is not simply a matter for the public affairs department."

Key points in the report:

  • If employees don’t see the point of CSR initiatives, or understand the message, initiatives are unlikely to be effective.
  • People are increasingly hoping to align their personal values with corporate ones - they want to feel a deeper sense of motivation than has previously been understood in business.
  • The credibility of CSR is dependent on delivery - not on rhetoric. HR is responsible for many of the key systems and process (e.g. recruitment, training and communication) on which effective delivery depends.
  • HR has a role in ensuring that corporate policies are effectively implemented and applied.
  • It should also monitor the practical application of corporate culture and values and engage with issues about corporate governance, risk management and employer brand – all of which impinge heavily on CSR.