Role of HR in Social & Environmental Responsibility

Instructor: Stephanie Lynne Mugnano
This lesson will describe the role that human resources (HR) plays in helping an organization to achieve corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability goals.

What Role Does Human Resources Play?

For a brief moment, reflect on what you think the role of human resources (HR) is in an organization. Did you think about talent management tasks such as recruiting, hiring, firing, or training? What about being a strategic business partner to the leaders of an organization in many facets of the business? Both are very important roles of HR. HR wears many hats and plays a role in many decisions an organization has to make.

HR can help an organization create a competitive advantage and achieve success by implementing talent management plans that help gain, develop, and retain talent. However, HR also can help an organization achieve goals by implementing corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability into each of its strategies.

What Are CSR and Sustainability?

Sustainability is creating and maintaining everything that affects the natural environment, which in turn provides for the well-being of humanity. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is defined as an organization's obligation to include economic, ethical, legal, and philanthropic responsibilities into its business model. Social responsibility is a commitment that must be given as much energy, thought, and time by an organization's leaders as they devote to financial goals.

An organization that is focused on CSR and sustainability is multinational giant Unilever. Unilever has used its beauty brand Dove to promote human development with self-esteem programs, and has partnered with groups such as the Girl Scouts of America to provide education on positive self-image. Employees of Unilever also are encouraged to participate in workshops to spread the word on self-esteem.

Unilever has focused on sustainability by encouraging the conservation of water with its Suave line of dry shampoos. Dry shampoos are common in the beauty industry, however, Unilever marketed Suave's version in a different way with an emphasis on water conservation. Most dry shampoos are marketed to consumers who want to save time by not washing their hair every day. Suave also collaborated with Recyclebank's Learn and Earn platform to help motivate consumers with reward points to learn about conserving water and saving money on an annual basis.

Sustainability and CSR can become part of organization's strategy and can create a competitive advantage if implemented properly. After an organization has committed to certain social responsibility and sustainability initiatives, these should be communicated in a way that everyone in the organization, including stakeholders and employees, understands the standards that are to be put in place.

Human Resources' Role in CSR and Sustainability

HR is a critical contributor to the organization's CSR and sustainability goals. HR plays a support role within the organization by partnering, engaging , and aligning. HR can play a vital role in the CSR and sustainability of an organization by partnering with executive leaders to communicate the vision to employees and stakeholders. HR plays a role in CSR and sustainability goals by building relationships with social groups that engage employees and communities. Finally, HR can align recruiting and training and development tools with CSR and sustainability.

An example of how HR can help create a CSR culture with employees is through health and wellness programs that offer incentives for participation. Like Unilever helps the communities with self-esteem issues, HR can set up programs that help employees with the same issues. Some organizations offer a monetary incentive to participate in an exercise plan. Others such as Google offer gym facilities to their employees. Creating awareness of health within an organization can help boost employee morale and in some cases drive a little healthy competition among employees.

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