Tag Archives: Corporate Social Responsibility

Starbucks’ Ethical Sourcing: Beans AND Talent

data point tuesday_500I read in the newspaper yesterday morning that Starbucks has achieved an incredible milestone for the ethical sourcing of virtually all its coffee – 99%! This means that more than 400 million pounds of coffee served globally meets really tough economic, environmental and social standards for growers from whom they buy their coffee. According to Starbucks’ website, they take a “comprehensive approach to ethical sourcing, using responsible purchasing practices; farmer support; economic, social and environmental standards; industry collaboration and community development programs.” And it’s all verified by third parties like C.A.F.E. (Coffee and Farmer Equity) Practices, Fairtrade and Certification Global Services. There is much to admire in Starbucks’ commitment to and execution in the ethical sourcing of its primary physical ingredient and I believe this achievement connects to what we could call the ethical sourcing of talent.

Starbucks also recently announced that it is making a full four-year college degree available without cost to all of its more than 140,000 full- and part-time partners (employees) through Arizona State University’s online degree program. Let’s see… Ethical sourcing of coffee beans from farmers all over the world and offering full college tuition coverage to tens of thousands of employees. I see a consistency of approach to trustworthy leadership here that is hard to find today anywhere in the world.

There are thousands of organizations all over the world that are serious about their corporate social responsibility commitments. They have programs that are helping to build communities, reduce environmental impact, improve the public health, educate young people – the list goes on and on. But these are programmatic approaches reliant upon individual leader commitments, not essential strands of the warp and woof of the organization’s foundation. As an observer of corporate culture, I find it rare to observe an organization that sees every aspect of the business as part of the whole cloth of social responsibility. Starbucks certainly sets the bar high in this regard. From a talent acquisition perspective, paying full college tuition for 100% of your employees is the most ethical sourcing strategy imaginable. And it makes sense when it’s lined up next to ethically sourcing 99% of its primary ingredient, coffee beans.

Trustworthy leadership is reliable in its consistency, transparency and ethical behavior. Starbucks is a pretty great example of this.

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Filed under China Gorman, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Sourcing, Starbucks, Talent Acquisition

The Global Workplace of 2030

Data Point Tuesday

CBRE and Genesis recently released a report “Fast Forward 2030: The Future of Work and the Workplace,” which provides meaningful insight on the behaviors, ideas, and trends, that will shape work and the workplace in 2030. Their report analyzes responses from 220 experts, business leaders and young people from Asia Pacific, Europe and North America who shared their views on how the current workplace is evolving. That report’s focus was to look towards the future and identify trends that will change the way we work over the next 15 years globally, with a key focus on China and Asia. CBRE and Genesis aimed to capture the thoughts and aspirations of this next generation by holding focus groups, instead of traditional surveys or interviews, in 11 cities worldwide, where “more than 150 corporate youth between the ages of 23-29 gave their frank opinions about current work practices, and in particular, what is and isn’t working for them and more importantly how they would like this to change in the future.”

What will work look like in 2030? Through questions considering the nature of society and corporations, CBRE and Genesis ask respondents to identify what the big game changers will be for shaping the workplace between now and 2030. Major game changing trends and ideas included:

  • The Holistic Worker
  • Lean, Agile, and Authentic Corporations
  • The Sharing Economy

“The Holistic Worker” was an idea echoed many times throughout respondents’ answers. This is a trend that we’re already seeing today, probably most prominently in the increasing attention to social responsibility among organizations. CBRE and Genesis report that “The Holistic Worker” will continue to be a significant influencer of change in the workplace. Their research shows an increasing belief that work should be “joyous and more full-filling,” and that within work there should be many opportunities to make meaningful contributions to the organization as well as society. Essentially, the data show that lines between work and life are blurring. People are more and more often expecting the freedom to choose how, where, and when they work, and these attitudinal shifts are slowly, but surely, creating a major change in workplaces and societies.

In CBRE and Genesis’s report, 78% of youth indicated that happiness was as important as financial success. 70% of Korean parents felt happiness for their children was more important than educational and financial success and in Japan, young employees in the focus group echoed the same sentiments, talking about a way of work totally different than the traditional ways of their parents. They spoke to workplace flexibility, going home to spend time with family, and working at many organizations over their career. Thai participants in youth focus groups said they would be willing to be paid 20% less if they could work in vibrant environments with the freedom and choice about how and where they get work done. Workplace flexibility and the desire for CSR are global trends, and certainly not limited to western culture. With the desire for work to having meaning and purpose, quick impact will be key. CBRE and Genesis anticipate that in 2030: “most work will be broken down into small, discreet, comprehensible components. Each component will have a clear purpose and teams delivering will have significant autonomy and control, responding to the many of the desires of the holistic worker.”

Another game changer for 2030, will be the need for organizations to be lean, agile and authentic – specifically, authentic. If organizations cannot be true to their values and contribute to society beyond the bottom line, their main source of talent, the holistic worker (and by virtue, also holistic consumers) will be extremely limited. CBRE and Genesis predict that technology and “artificial intelligence” will be huge game changers for organizations that can leverage them correctly. Organizations with 20-40 people can be just an impactful as large corporations, and by leveraging technology while being “unhindered by legacy processes and mindsets,” they will easily disrupt existing corporate models. The growth of technology, while being extremely beneficial for workplaces, is also a worrisome concept. CBRE and Genesis’s report points out it’s predicted that 50% of the occupations in corporations today will not exist in 2030, and points to evidence that in the U.S technology is already destroying more jobs than it is creating:GDP vs. Employment Growth

“The Sharing Economy” was another major underlying theme in CBRE and Genesis’s research. They define this as a socio-economic system built around the sharing of human and physical resources, whose emergence reflects changing attitudes in societies about ownership and collaborative consumption, fuelled by technology and apps that allow people to rapidly match supply and demand – person to person. Expert respondents in Beijing reported that the sharing economy would have significant impact to the future of work and the workplace in 2030, and used a research study by consultancy Latitude in the US71 as a framework for discussing how the sharing economy might impact real estate: Jan 27 2015 New Opps for SharingCBRE and Genesis also asked respondents about competitive advantage in 2030, and although answers covered a wide range, 10 top sources emerged, with attraction and retention of key/top talent as the number one source of competitive advantage followed by innovation. Jan 27 2015 Top 10 Sources of Competitive Advantage

When talking about innovation, respondents reported that for the future of the workplace “there will be constant innovation and support of entrepreneurial behaviors: micro-innovation within the organization”.

In several past posts I’ve discussed how the workplace is going increasingly global, yet to date most of the research in the area of work and the workplace remains from a western perspective. CBRE and Genesis’s report specifically widens the research to include not only western perspective but also those of developed and developing Asian nations, providing new and unique perspectives on a geographic level. Such perspectives can provide surprising results, such as the determination and excitement of young employees in Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo to rethink the experience of work and push their superiors to change, vs. more conservative opinions than expected in New York and London. Youth Appetite for Change

The bottom line? The youngest cohort of our employees – worldwide – are describing their preferences for work and the “office” of the not so very distant future as radically different than most work environments today. Those organizations desirous of developing their cultures to attract and retain today’s Millennials might take these findings into account. We Baby Boomers won’t be around forever. And that’s probably a good thing.

Be sure to check out CBRE and Genesis’ full report here.

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Filed under CBRE, China Gorman, Corporate Social Responsibility, Data Point Tuesday, Genesis, Millenials, Work Life Balance, Workplace Studies

Sustainability in 2014: The Language of CSR

Data Point Tuesday
GreenBiz Group Inc.
recently released their 2014 Sustainability & Employee Engagement Report, content generated from responses of more than 5,600 members of the GreenBiz Intelligence Panel (executives and thought leaders in the area of corporate environmental strategy and performance). GreenBiz’s report “examines aspects of corporate environmental and sustainability education initiatives at companies at varying stages of program development and provides a quantitative understanding of the evolution of employee engagement” and notes that while sustainability professionals commonly think of challenges in terms of the physical or fiscal impact of their efforts, the most problematic challenge for this area today may actually be its use of language. Take the term “employee engagement” as an example. While sustainability professionals frequently use this term to describe their attempts to motivate a company’s employees to participate in furthering the sustainability or CSR program, it’s likely that HR executives already have a definition for the term and a way to measure it. HR commonly defines engagement as an employee’s willingness to apply discretionary effort toward meeting the company’s goals and to do more than merely meet job requirements/customer needs and measures this via an index approach using employee answers to survey questions. For example “are you proud to work at this company?” or “do you feel this is a great place to work?”

If HR and Sustainability teams have different definitions of terms like employee engagement, it can cause disconnect and communication barriers. GreenBiz uses the example of a CSR professional who ran into resistance when he met with HR to talk about how to improve employee engagement efforts at his organization. When he changed the language of the conversation however, and asked to discuss how they could increase the participation numbers in the company’s sustainability programs, he was meet with much more enthusiasm. GreenBiz points out that another potential language gap occurs when Sustainability and HR professionals discuss how to achieve greater participation from employees in furthering the sustainability mission. While 73 percent of respondents indicated that their company is educating employees across the organization about its corporate sustainability goals, in a recent study by The Conference Board, only 5 percent of the S&P 500 have instituted employee CSR training. This highlights the differences in association and potential confusion that can occur between the terms “training” and “education,” where training is generally more skills based and education often refers to broader and more general learning activities.

Sept 16 sustainability definitions chart
Understanding the kinds of language used in CSR and HR programs, and how to frame such language, can be a vital tool in breaking down communication barriers within an organization. With this in mind, let’s look more closely at what GreenBiz’s report uncovered, starting with the basic definition of “sustainability” initiatives. Over the last six years the term “sustainability” has become the standard for describing such initiatives. 51% of respondents report identifying with this term, up from 49 percent in 2011 and 34 percent in 2008. While this term is increasing, two terms have lost value in describing sustainability initiatives, “environmental, health and safety” and “greening” (see chart above). Another sustainability trend for 2014 is the convergence of social and environmental issues. When GreenBiz looked at the extent to which environmental and social issues are linked today vs. five years ago, they noted an increase across all companies regardless of size. The largest increase in the correlation was at large companies, from 87% to 94%. When it comes to educating employees about their corporate sustainability goals, almost all companies participate. 73% of respondents at small companies indicated their organizations are providing this education, as did 80% of respondents at large companies. Interestingly, which department champions sustainability education efforts most seems to be dependent on the size of the company (see graphic below).

Sustainability champions grapic
When it comes to the topics on which departments focus for employee sustainability education programs, the top 5 have remained steady over the last six years and are: “general information about sustainability initiatives,” “the company’s sustainability successes and accomplishments,” “Actions at work to conserve or protect resources,” “environmental footprint of the company,” and “volunteer programs.” For 2014, the top three motivators for employee participation in corporate sustainability activities were: “concern for the environment and society,” “evident CEO support or mandate,” and “sustainability goals included in performance evaluation.” GreenBiz’s report also cites internal hurdles to sustainability education, which include executive commitment, education and communication, budget/resources/competing priorities, and time.

This data around participation by employees in corporate CSR or Sustainability programs, links nicely to last week’s post about Millennials’ participation in “cause work.” Coming at this topic from both directions – desire on the part of Millennials to participate and corporate CSR/Sustainability professionals’ desire for higher participation levels – creates significant opportunity for everyone. Building trust levels , creating opportunities for growing camaraderie and making strides in being good stewards of the Earth, the economy and our communities in one fell swoop could be a monumental win/win for all of us.

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Filed under China Gorman, Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, Data Point Tuesday, Great Place to Work, GreenBiz Group, Sustainability

HR Stakeholders

I was doing some research for a keynote speech I’ll be giving and I took another look at the SHRM Foundation’s Effective Practice Guideline on CSR.  I wrote about it here, and was reading it again, thinking “Gee this is great stuff.”  (Stuff, being a highly technical term that data geeks use a lot.)

I came across this graphic of the stakeholders HR professionals need to connect with when designing and promoting CSR approaches and programs within their organizations.   As I reviewed it, I thought it was a good reminder of the breadth of the stakeholders that HR needs to factor into all of its work – whether it’s CSR, talent acquisition, talent management, benefits administration, strategic planning, learning and development – or yes, even the planning of the annual company picnic.

As I looked over the graphic, the only missing stakeholder group that I noted was the Board of Directors – but I’m pretty sure the authors include them the Owners-Shareholders group.  With the growing regulation of business and the focus on board oversight, I’d call them out as a separate group.  What do you think? Would you add any other distinct groups?

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Filed under China Gorman, Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, HR, HR Data, HR Stakeholders, SHRM Foundation

Data Source Highlight: SHRM Foundation

From time-to-time we won’t discuss a particular data point, we’ll highlight a particular data source.  Due to the ubiquity of content on the web, it’s important to find trustworthy and relevant sources of data.  Today, I recommend the SHRM Foundation.

You don’t have to be a SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) member to avail yourself of the wealth of knowledge published for free by the SHRM Foundation, SHRM’s separate 501(c) (3) nonprofit affiliate.  The Foundation’s mission is to “advance global human capital knowledge and practice by providing thought leadership and educational support, and sponsoring, funding and driving the adoption of cutting-edge, actionable, evidence-based research.”

In addition to providing scholarships to SHRM members for degree completion and certification, the Foundation performs two very important functions for the Human Resources profession:

  • It is one of the leading funders of rigorous academic HR research
  • It creates educational resources for the profession, including EPGs (Effective Practice Guidelines) which makes research findings easily accessible.

I make this introduction to the Foundation because many in HR don’t know what the Foundation does for all HR professionals – SHRM members or not – and so don’t avail themselves of the research that is practical and relevant to the job of HR.

Of the most useful of the Foundation’s products, EPGs integrate current research findings on what works in real life with expert opinion on how to conduct HR effectively and have been published on a wide array of topics critical to talent and organization management success.  Recent EPGs have included:

  • Human Resource Strategy
  • Promoting Employee Well-Being
  • Recruiting and Attracting Talent
  • Retaining Talent
  • Developing Leadership Talent

Case in point:

HRM’s Role in Corporate Social and Environmental Sustainability, the newest in the series of Effective Practice Guidelines (EPGs) from the Foundation.

Want a readable, rigorous overview of how HR can integrate CSR and environmental sustainability into the culture of an organization?  Want to know what new competencies you need to develop to be a credible leader in this regard?  Want a roadmap to embed CSR and ER into an organization’s mission so that “its impacts on employees, communities and their stakeholders align with the sustainability vision” of the organization?

In 31 pages, noted CSR experts Elaine Cohen, Sully Taylor and Michael Muller-Camen provide an extraordinary review of what the research says, what effective practice looks like, the inclusion of several case studies and the introduction of successful organizational models – all written for easy consumption by HR practitioners.  It’s a goldmine of information.

For example, early in this EPG, a discussion of the different manifestations of CSR ends with this very useful diagram:

This visual, based on work by Archie Carroll, brings useful context to any business discussion about CSR – and would be a strong starting point for any business case an HR professional would bring forward.  The Foundation’s EPGs are full of these kinds of easy to understand and extremely useful data points.

If you aren’t familiar with the SHRM Foundation’s EPG series, I recommend that you visit their site and start browsing the titles.  I guarantee that after reading one you’ll not only feel smarter – you’ll actually  be smarter.

Full disclosure:  I served on the SHRM Foundation Board of Trustees from 2007 – 2010.

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Filed under Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, Effective Practice Guidelines, Environmental Sustainability, SHRM, SHRM Foundation, Uncategorized