What is the first step towards becoming a more environmentally and socially responsible business? Getting a recycling bin? No. Starting a team yoga class? No. Walk to work scheme? No. All great and very valid suggestions but they aren’t the first and most important step. The first step is a change in mentality. Becoming aware of the impact you have as a business on people and the environment is the most important step in your journey to becoming more sustainable. The young, environmentally and socially conscious workforce is growing. A recent 1000-person survey found that nearly half of respondents want to work for a company that’s environmentally responsible and as many as 75% of millennials said the same thing (Pelosi, 2020). Further to this, 75 % of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company (Fast Company, 2020). Incorporating these themes into fresh and relevant Corporate Social Responsibility strategies centred on sustainability topics that employees are passionate about will foster a great company culture and ethos that its employees believe in.
Perfectly positioned to support, monitor and coordinate a sustainability strategy is Human Resources. The view that HR is pivotal in corporate social responsibility has increased over recent years. However, recent studies reveal the reality gap between intentions of HR and the implementation of these sustainable strategies company-wide. The importance here being that unless strategies are strongly monitored and adhered to, good intentions do not count for much. It is paramount that the voice of HR is recognised and heard for all matters that may conflict with the company’s corporate social responsibility guidelines.
Examples of the ways in which the Human Resources department can influence this change in mentality are many and varied:
Organising incentives and workshops in order to ensure the staff are given all the necessary tools and knowledge in order to implement the sustainability strategy
Organising social and charitable activities for the team such as collecting food donations for vulnerable members of society and those impacted by natural disasters
Supporting the on-going adaptation and ownership of a CSR strategy with the team will ensure long-term employment opportunities, reduce staff turnover and consequently reduce fear of job insecurity
There are obviously further approaches to this topic – the important thing is to recognise the potential positive effects HR can have in adapting these practices and the impact this can have on workforce trust and loyalty. If employees believe that their employer cares about them as individual, cares for its wider impact on the community and cares about its impact on the environment it will lead to increased productivity, reduced costs and reduced staff turnover. We are seeing vast increases in quantifiable data exploring the relationship between corporate social responsibility and Human Resources, with 119 studies between 2017-2019 (Santana et al, 2020). The strength of this relationship and positive effect it can have on financial performance is well documented and something that shouldn’t be overlooked (Cohen et al, 2010). The important thing now is to increase accountability for these strategies and ensure they are adhered to – HR is key to the answer!
Santana, M., Morales-Sánchez, R. and Pasamar, S., 2020. Mapping the Link between Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Human Resource Management (HRM): How Is This Relationship Measured?. Sustainability, 12(4), p.1678.
Pelosi, P. (2020). Millennials Want Workplaces With Social Purpose. How Does Your Company Measure Up? – Chief Learning Officer – CLO Media. [online] Chief Learning Officer – CLO Media. [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020].
Fast Company. (2020). Most millennials would take a pay cut to work at a environmentally responsible company. [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020].
Cohen, E., Taylor, S. and Muller-Camen, M., 2010. HR’s role in corporate social responsibility and sustainability. SHRM Foundation. Alexandria.
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