When Can HR Get Involved in Social Responsibility?

How do you give back?

Many organisations have invested heavily in corporate social responsibility programmes to give back, build trust with stakeholders, employees and customers and, in many cases, improve their corporate brand.

We’ve been involved in a few fundraising and social responsibility schemes in recent months ourselves. Given the chance to become Geared Up employees, 37% of our workforce signed up to make contributions to charity out of their monthly salary.

“As part of our social consciousness strategy combined with our teams’ personal desires to give something back, we sought a work-place scheme that allowed us to make regular contributions to chosen charities direct from pay.”

Darren Rosenfeld, Director

Seventeen of us (including our willing directors!) were due to compete in The Great River Race at the weekend, in aid of Great Ormond Street hospital, however at the last minute dragon-boats were dis-allowed to participate due to poor conditions. Not only was the training and the build-up to the race itself a great boost for our team and company culture, but we also felt part of a much larger effort to raise money for an extremely worthy cause!

But true corporate social responsibility is not just about gestures, charity fundraisers and donation initiatives (as worthy & honorable as these things are) – it’s about ethical and responsible business practices. It’s about embedding a sense of fair play and social responsibility in the very fabric of your company culture, and prioritising these things alongside financial success:

“If you define your value creation in narrow financial terms, you can develop this very far while maintaining a deep disregard for social responsibility.” 

Jonny Gifford, Research Advisor to the CIPD

Placing the welfare of others and ethical behaviour at the heart of your business values, this plays a key role in employee morale and customer loyalty. But should HR take a more active role in driving corporate social responsibility programmes?

When Can HR Get Involved?

With its unique, objective view of an organisation’s workforce, HR, can get involved in promoting ethical practices, monitoring the social welfare and wellbeing of employees and examining working practices for economic, social and environmental impact. In fact, it should be leading it.

CIPD research into organisations like Capgemini, Ginsters, Pret A Manger, Siemens, Toyota GB, Veolia Environmental Services and Wates found that HR is rarely involved in corporate responsibility. In fact, of the 353 HR professional and 523 middle and senior managers surveyed, only 13% reported that HR was responsible for corporate social responsibility strategy.

“HR is not absolved from the corporate responsibility of other aspects of the business and needs to be able and willing to ask the challenging questions.”

‘The Role of HR in Corporate Responsibility’, CIPD Report

In many organisations, though, HR has historically taken a supportive role in corporate social responsibility. If people play a central role in creating and living socially responsible company values, then surely HR should take a leadership role in championing social responsibility?

“HR is ideally placed to gauge organizational culture, understand it and change it.”

Jonny Gifford, Research Advisor to the CIPD

So how can they get involved?

HR is about just that, humans. It is up to them, therefore, to make sure that people management practices within their organisation are ethical and responsible, first of all. Then, they can play a key role in embedding corporate social responsibility through training and support. Organisations can’t just expect social responsibility from their employees – it requires learning and development, and HR are well placed to deliver that.

“The HR function needs to think about leadership, recruitment and reward.  Some of the best organizations have taken an interesting HR aspect to this where they look at the work-life balance of CSR.

Judi Marshall, Lancaster University Management School

Thanks for reading! If you want to know more about how we weave social responsibility into the tapestry of our company culture, please do not hesitate to get in touch!