By Suresh Kr Pramar
The events at the Maruti factory in Manesar reflects the failure of the Company’s Human Resource department to build loyalty and confidence among the employees. These events are a wake call for Human Resource Managements in all companies practicing green wash Corporate Social Responsibility. It has a lesson for organisation that continue to pay lip-service to CSR while neglecting to foster a CSR culture within the organization. These organizations, like Maruti, run the risk of damaging their corporate reputation if not their demise.
One of the biggest criticisms leveled against CSR is that companies in India only care about it for marketing purposes. CSR is merely a buzzword embraced by corporations because they “should.” For most companies, CSR is PR. “It looks good. It sounds good. It’s the ‘right’ thing to do — and it gets good media coverage which is good for the brand image.”
A KPMG survey has said that only 16 percent of the top-100 listed firms in India have a corporate responsibility strategy in place. For Indian companies, the primary objective or the driving force behind CSR remains strengthening the reputation and brand image. Actual CSR objectives like innovation and learning, and employee motivation as also their skill enhancement rank very low.
According to Eric Orts, professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton “For companies to take CSR seriously, it has to be integrated into the DNA of the enterprise.” For CSR to work effectively in a company, all the people who work there must be made a part of it, and not apart from it. Adine Mees and Jamie Bonham, of the Canadian Business for Social Responsibility point out “If employees are not engaged, corporate social responsibility becomes an exercise in public relations. The credibility of an organization will become damaged when it becomes evident the company is not ‘walking the talk’
In her book ‘CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices, Elaine Cohen, an international HR and CSR expert points out that “HR Managers are presently preoccupied with their traditional roles and are failing to see the opportunities that CSR brings for them as professionals. For HR professionals to become true and valued business partners, a fundamental understanding of CSR and its relations with their function is essential. They need achieve a higher level of responsiveness to new challenges.”
HR needs to wake up to CSR and start learning how to drive a more inclusive and responsive culture that helps a business do more than just make money. Once they do that, they will materially affect business results in a more positive way, and reap personal and professional benefits, and create even stronger legitimacy for the HR function. “There is an urgent need for a mind change and to raise the level of awareness among HR professionals about their role to become more pro active in the promotion of CSR within the organization”
The ability to deliver a strong CSR-aligned business strategy lies with a company’s leadership and is embodied in its values, culture, capabilities and communications. This means embedding a CSR-enabled culture in all parts of the organization. Business leaders need to ensure that employees, the group which most influences its business results, and which is most directly influenced by the employment practices of the business, understands, engages with and proactively advances the CSR agenda.
There is therefore need that the CSR concept is integrated within the organisation. This will require that company employees at all levels are made aware of CSR and the role they need to play to make it a success. Employees are the company’s best brand. They are also the company’s best strategists. They need to be tuned into the sustainability conversation to ensure effective results from any CSR programme. It is only when employees feel involved will they invest their time, productivity and creative ideas.
HR plays a key role in helping the company do the right things in the right way. HR is the custodian of corporate culture which is reflected in the way people in a business do things. Since CSR is a long term change process about how the business achieves results in a way which is different from traditional practice, the HR role is critical to ensuring a CSR-enabled culture. CSR is the top challenge for HR in the future.
Cohen points out “HR are the custodians of corporate culture which is reflected in the way people in a business do things. Given that CSR is a long term change process about how the business achieves results in a way which is different from traditional practice, the HR role is critical to ensuring a CSR-enabled culture.” The role of HR is to, “create processes whereby all employees are aware, understand the interaction between sustainability of their own role, and committed and motivated to make change.”
According to Cohen “CSR begins with creating a responsible work place, where business takes the responsibility for its impacts on employees and their families” Employees have the most influence on the business and are most affected on a daily basis. They are the one who keep the business running. “How can you expect your employee to understand and support CSR practices if they themselves are not treated in a responsible way.
“Without engaged, committed, motivated, capable and competent employees, working together towards a common goal, none of the other stakeholders would benefit because business will not succeed at an optimum level. For a business to be socially responsible, each one of its employees engaged in its activities must be committed to social responsibility of the Business.”
Employee involvement is a critical success factor for CSR performance. Human resource managers have the tools and the opportunity to leverage employee commitment to, and engagement in, the firm’s CSR strategy. HR’s mandate to communicate and implement ideas, policies, and cultural and behavioural change in organizations makes it central to fulfilling an organization’s objectives to “integrate CSR in all that we do.” HR has the responsibility to find solutions to the task of identifying in which ways they can provide employees with a sense of belonging, with a feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves and at the same time inspire feelings of loyalty, job satisfaction and success.
A highly integrated CSR workplace which has robust employee engagement and high levels of employee satisfaction, as a result of a CSR strategy and values framework, would reduce employee interests in unionization.
(Suresh Kr Pramar, Trainer, Writer, CSR Consultant and the Executive Director, Centre for Training & Research in Responsible Business is a veteran journalist presently actively involved in promoting CSR through his publication CRBiz and by conducting workshop on Corporate Social Responsibility. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile No: 09213133042/9899305950)