Corporate Responsibility (CR), or simply Sustainability, started life as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), a woolly concept that was often seen as a weapon in the PR team's arsenal with many corporations accused of 'greenwashing'. CSR has hardened since then. With the emergence of green investment, and evidence linking reputation to bottom line, the business case for CSR is clearer.
What has taken longer to cement is the interdependence between sustainability and employee engagement. The graduate recruitment market was the first to use sustainability credentials as part of their employee offer, driven by research that showed that 'Generation Y' was more altruistic and concerned with the wider world than its Generation X parents. But CSR was only the bait; once inside, new arrivals may not always have found much evidence of embedded programmes.
Happily, life has moved on. Responsibility is now about making commercial, environmental, social and employee considerations work in harmony. It is increasingly being seen as 'how we do things around here' and not a programme run in isolation. The organisation's relationship with its employees increasingly sits at the centre of sustainability and the number of organisations defining their employer brand and organisational values supports this.
In many cases, companies are starting to link their values and their commercial expertise to define their Corporate Responsibility programmes, with, for example, financial services organisations offering financial coaching or mobile media companies offering clinics to get people familiar with using a computer or accessing the internet. Some organisations are building on the theme of being part of the community they are located in, taking on community responsibilities such as maintenance of leisure facilities. Other organisations use their CR programmes to benefit both communities and employees, for example by assigning those in need of management experience as mentors and giving them the training they need to succeed.
The end result? The holy grail of integrity that fosters trust, loyalty and engagement amongst employees, customers, neighbours and stakeholders alike. Integrity is the new CSR.
The question I'd ask? How much more value could you get from your CR programme if it was linked with your employee engagement programme?
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