The Intersection of HR and Corporate Social Responsibility

Embracing corporate social responsibility isn’t just a marketing move. (Indeed, doing good purely for clout can actually be more damaging to your reputation than not doing anything at all.) Stakeholders today know sincerity when they see it. That’s why integrating HR and corporate social responsibility (CSR) is essential for creating and sustaining fundamental change — both within the organization and in society at large.

HR plays a vital role in facilitating actions aligned with corporate social responsibility programs. There’s been a lot of lip service paid to social objectives, but HR has the ability to make a culture of corporate social responsibility part of the company’s daily life and purpose.

Here’s how HR can play a more significant and strategic role in achieving corporate social responsibility.

Refine Your Company’s Value Proposition

At the C-suite level, reassert or redefine your mission, vision and values. This will help you refine your employer brand and value proposition to the communities where you operate and serve. As your company hones in on those social objectives, you may lose employees whose values aren’t aligned with the company’s. But you’ll also attract individuals who are excited to support your mission and vision.

“The more HR and employers can be explicit about what they stand for and the purpose of the company, the more you’re going to attract your people,” says Angela Howard, SPHR, founder and Chief Transformation Officer at Angela R. Howard Consulting. If it makes long-term engagement possible, attrition can actually be healthy.

By refining your value proposition, you can be strategic and deliberate in carrying out your vision. HR needs to make those decisions and modify policies and practices to support them. The human resources team can facilitate these conversations and put them into action.

Foster Greater Impact

HR is in the best position to facilitate a larger impact, not just on employees but also on society. By aligning the HR, diversity/inclusion, marketing and CSR functions, HR can foster symbiotic relationships between departments working towards shared goals. With clear directives regarding mission, vision and values, working with other departments can facilitate more inclusive work environments and more targeted processes. It can also be important on the individual level as it gives each contributor a greater sense of purpose and boosts their engagement.

“When employees feel valued, they’re more engaged,” says Vivian Greentree, SPHR, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Corporate Citizenship at Fiserv and President of Fiserv Cares Foundation. “Engaged employees are better performers, more likely to satisfy and delight clients and use discretionary effort to create and innovate.”

HR can even work with other leaders across industries to lobby for more humane work practices (like paid parental leave) that would benefit employees and, consequently, businesses.

Facilitate Purpose and Influence

Titles and leadership roles aren’t prerequisites for influence; anyone can exert influence to create change. HR should help individual employees find their own sphere of influence. Work and life are integrated more than ever before, but they aren’t always aligned. “If we can align purpose with what people do for a living,” Greentree says, “that is truly magical.”

With a refined, clear value proposition, the people you attract are more likely to be passionate about the good your company adds to the world. You should harness this passion. For instance, you can learn from cross-functional teams and industry advocacy groups about the hindrances to organizational CSR, then empower employees to innovate solutions.

“People are going to start to see how their business and businesses like them can start to organize to create that ecosystem and community to make scalable changes,” Howard says. HR and corporate social responsibility can make a difference both within the company and in the larger community. By demonstrating your genuine commitment to making that difference, you will attract employees who are equally dedicated and receive a deserved boost to your reputation.