Tag Archives: CSR

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