In the global conversation around sustainability and other social issues, political leaders and online influencers are some of the key players. But there’s one other group of people who are just as important to the cause: business leaders.
In fact, 71 percent of millennials expect that businesses will take the lead in addressing social issues — and many businesses follow through on this expectation by integrating a term called “corporate responsibility” (CR) into their HR strategy.
But what is corporate responsibility, and why is it important in human resources? This article will answer those questions and more, as we explore the ins and outs of CR in HR.
The 101 on Corporate Responsibility
Let’s delve into what corporate responsibility in HR means. More commonly known as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), this concept encompasses the ways that businesses manage their economic, social and environmental impacts.
Simply put, CSR is the idea that companies should be good citizens by doing things like being transparent about their practices, behaving ethically and contributing to society.
There are three main aspects of CSR: economic, social and environmental. We’ll take a closer look at each.
Economic: This includes things like creating jobs, promoting sustainable development and investing in the local community.
Social: Human rights, diversity and sustainable living are all part of social CSR.
Environmental: This involves reducing environmental impact, promoting sustainability and conserving resources.
Since businesses often have more financial resources than nonprofit organizations and individuals, they are in a better position to effect positive change. And that’s what CSR is all about: using business resources to benefit society.
How does Corporate Responsibility relate to human resources?
As you know, the human resources department is responsible for the wellbeing and productivity of an organization’s workforce. But what about the wellbeing and productivity of the organization itself? That’s where corporate responsibility comes in.
CR is all about ensuring that businesses operate in a way that is socially and environmentally responsible, not just profitable. It’s about making sure that your company is sustainable in the long run, not just in the short term.
Corporate responsibility often falls to the HR department because it’s responsible for maintaining employee satisfaction and engagement — and if you look at the research, CR clearly has a positive impact on both of those things. In fact, employees are much happier when they are given the opportunity to impact change through their organization.
This is why HR professionals are at the forefront of developing and implementing CR programs; they are in a unique position to see how CR can benefit the workforce and the company as a whole.
Becoming socially responsible: simple tips
All that being said, CR is not just about making employees happy. It’s also about reducing an organization’s environmental footprint, complying with regulations, and building trust with customers and the community. So, how can your HR department become socially responsible?
Establish your values and ethics
The first step to becoming more socially responsible as a business is to establish your values and ethics — and if you’ve already done so, there’s no harm in revisiting them from time to time.
Social responsibility begins in the ideas and attitudes that underpin your company culture, so it’s important to be clear about what you stand for, and how your employees should behave towards each other, customers and the public.
There are a number of resources available to help you get started, such as the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), which provides a framework of 10 universal principles covering human rights, labor standards, environmentalism and anti-corruption.
The key is to make sure that your values are relevant to your company size, sector and geographical location — as well as being achievable and practical.
To set your values and ethics, you can begin by asking yourself the following questions:
- What are our company’s core values?
- How do we want our employees to behave?
- What kind of relationships do we want to have with our customers and suppliers?
- What is our stance on social and environmental issues?
- Do we have a code of conduct or ethics policy?
If you’re having trouble getting started, a good way to begin is by looking at your company’s history and what made it successful. Ask yourself what values or practices have been integral to your success, and try to find a way to translate these into ethical principles.
Choose a mission and focus on it
Once you’ve established your ethics, it’s crucial that the HR department choose one specific cause or mission to emphasize and focus on.
This can be something as simple as reducing the company’s environmental impact or ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and with respect. However, it’s important to choose a mission that everyone in the company can get behind and support.
Here’s a list of specific causes that your company might want to focus on:
- Reducing the environmental impact of your company’s operations
- Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace
- Providing employees with a safe and healthy working environment
- Ensuring that your company is paying a living wage
- Providing access to education and training for employees
- Reducing wastefulness in the workplace
- Hiring disadvantaged or underrepresented employees from your community
After you’ve chosen a cause, it’s important to make record of your decision. Don’t be vague about it; document your commitment to the cause, your reasons for supporting it, and what specific steps you’ll take to enact change. This will help to keep everyone on track and remind them of the company’s ethical values.
Create some goals for your CR strategy
Deciding which cause you want to champion is an excellent first step, but no real progress can be made without setting some goals. For the sake of demonstration, let’s choose an example: hiring disadvantaged or underprivileged workers from within your local community.
To set some goals pertaining to this cause, you need to create SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Some examples of SMART goals you could set for your CR strategy in HR would be:
- Within the next six months, increase the number of disadvantaged or underprivileged workers hired from within the local community by 20%.
- Within the next year, create a program that offers on-the-job training for disadvantaged or underprivileged workers.
- By the end of the fiscal year, donate 5% of our profits to organizations that work with disadvantaged or underprivileged communities.
These examples specify the how and when of your goals, making them much more achievable than simply stating “we want to do better by the community.”
Educate everyone in your business
One of the HR department’s most important responsibilities is to educate other employees about the company’s policies and procedures. By doing so, you can help employees understand their role in keeping the company sustainable.
This is especially important for implementing your CR strategy. Employees who understand the company’s goals and objectives are more likely to comply with them, making it easier for you to achieve sustainable outcomes.
To educate your employees, start by creating an overview of the CR strategy. This document should outline the company’s goals, objectives and how employees can help achieve them. You can also hold training sessions or webinars to go over the details.
However you choose to educate your employees, make sure you cover the following topics:
- The company’s CR strategy and how it relates to the overall business goals
- How employees can help the company achieve its CR goals
- The benefits of CR for both the company and employees
- How employees can make sustainable choices in their personal lives
When your employees understand the company’s CR strategy and how they can help, they’re more likely to be engaged and motivated to act responsibly.
Foster partnerships with other organizations
There are plenty of non-profit organizations out there that stand for a range of different causes. When it comes to corporate responsibility in HR, partnering with these organizations can be extremely beneficial.
By working together, your company can help promote the cause and support the organization financially. In turn, this helps to improve your image within the community and builds brand awareness.
In addition to promoting a good cause, partnerships with other organizations can also help your HR department in other ways. For example, if your company is looking for new employees, partnering with a job placement agency can be a great way to find qualified candidates.
By teaming up with an organization that shares your company’s values, you can help ensure that the people you hire are a good fit for both your company and the cause you support.
Final thoughts on corporate responsibility
In 2022, it’s more important than ever for businesses to be socially responsible. Employees are looking for sustainable and ethical companies to work for, and customers are more likely to choose a product if they know the company is doing good in the world.
Fortunately, incorporating corporate responsibility into HR is easier than ever before. We hope the tips in this article have helped you see the many ways your company can become more sustainable.
Every little bit helps, so don’t be afraid to start small. And remember that it’s important to keep communication open throughout the process. By working together, your team can create a corporate responsibility strategy that’s good for your employees, your customers, and the world.