CSR is all talk

Jul 11 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The majority of employees feel betrayed by employers who talk the talk when it comes to corporate values but fail to deliver on their rhetoric, according to Business in the Community.

A survey of 1,000 employees across Britain carried out in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) and the Future Work Institute found that more than half of employees (55 per cent) complain that the recruitment spiel about values and Corporate Social Responsibility which helped attract them to their employer is never actually implemented.

The findings come just days after business think tank Tomorrow's Company warned that the CSR bandwagon is in danger of becoming a compliance-led ‘box-ticking exercise’ in which real conviction gets lost amid a mass of reporting frameworks, jargon and corporate structures.

The BUPA-sponsored BITC report, 'Responsibility: driving innovation, inspiring employees' found that an increasingly socially-aware workforce wants to see the organisation's values practised throughout the business - from corporate social responsibility through HR to products and services.

Employees are convinced that a talented and diverse workforce enhances creativity and innovation and contributes to increased focus on customers, improving competitive edge.

The BITC findings reflect a growing trend for employees to be much more discerning about who they work for. Earlier this year, an online poll by Select Appointment found that more than three-quarters of people would not choose to work for an organisation that was considered to have unethical products and services.

Crucially, employees identified high-quality, inspiring, visible and connected leadership as being crucial in influencing the extent to which an organisation lives its values. But the majority said that their own management did not rate highly in this regard.

The BITC says that organisations seeking to translate responsible practice into improved bottom line results should listed to what employees identify as the characteristics of a responsible employer.

According to staff, these include treating individuals fairly and responding to the changing needs of individual employees over time, providing good quality products or services, listening to employees and understanding the importance of values.

Six out of ten identified work-life balance issues, listening and acting on employee ideas, developing potential and promoting on merit as being signs of a good employer. But only four out of ten said that their own employer met their expectations in these areas.

It also emerges that attitudes to responsible business practice evolve as peoples’ careers develop. The financial package is the more important aspect in deciding on an employer, particularly for younger recruits, but once in employment, sharing the employer’s values becomes crucial to staying with the organisation.