CSR and HR: Better Together

To be truly successful, corporate social responsibility programs must begin from within
open face peanut butter and jelly sandwich

CSR minus HR is PR. This quote, originally appearing in the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Driving Success, speaks to a common challenge faced by many CSR professionals today: when a firm’s CSR strategy is not aligned with its business strategy overall, and its HR strategy in particular, CSR activities – and the communications surrounding them – stand the risk of becoming nothing more than an exercise in public relations. This is a powerful message. And it speaks to the delicate balancing act that many CSR, corporate communications and marketing professionals struggle with when trying to build awareness and engagement around a firm’s good works.

We’ve written a lot about how to balance authenticity and reputation, and be truly successful, corporate social responsibility programs must begin from within, with employees – a company’s most important stakeholders and external communications channel. While success can mean many different things to individual firms, a CSR program should always strive to help build and engage employees in the firm’s culture, strengthen the corporate brand, and achieve real results, whether in the community, the environment or the specific charities a company supports. None of this can happen though without the full support of the firm and all its internal stakeholders.

This is why we were excited to learn about a new webinar series based on Elaine Cohen’s insightful book, CSR for HR: A Necessary Partnership for Advancing Responsible Business Practices, which makes a strong argument for why the HR function needs to be a key partner in embedding CSR and sustainability initiatives into any company.  Simply put:  CSR needs a strong culture of engagement (from employees and management) to be effective. Since the HR function is charged with leading culture, recruitment, training and other human capital management processes, Cohen argues, HR must be a core partner.

While the book is written from the standpoint of an HR executive, it is a valuable resource for CSR professionals (especially those looking for more internal support for programs), providing a clear case for why the CSR-HR partnership ultimately strengthens both functions as well as a roadmap for aligning the two. The webinar series will build off the book, focusing on skill building, implementation challenges, and connecting employee engagement with business opportunities.

Editor’s note: This blog references an already-concluded webinar series. Although is is no longer available to stream online, we’d love to talk to you about how to loop HR into your CSR initiatives. 

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