from IES newsletter In Brief, no. 131

Corporate Social Responsibility – employees as stakeholders

Linda Barber

Linda BarberCorporate Social Responsibility (CSR) most frequently evokes thoughts of the environment, engaging with local communities and shareholders, and issues ranging from pollution to fairness and ethics. The drivers of CSR policies or statements may be rooted in a range of motivations such as:

altruism: helping those in society less fortunate or disadvantaged in some way, eg the socially excluded

a tool to enhance or promote the ‘employer brand’ to different stakeholder groups, including potential employees

compliance: such as within supply chain management

as a lever to improve business performance, via one of the CSR key stakeholder groups: motivated employees.

Stephen Timms MP, Minister of State for Energy, e-Commerce and Postal Services, states that widespread practice of CSR is an important element of DTI strategy to improve UK competitiveness via investment, innovation, skills, enterprise and competition. There is no reason to suggest that a mix of these motivations cannot be mutually beneficial to CSR stakeholder groups. However, they are likely to be led and managed by different functions, reflecting the different organisational drivers for CSR.

IES has been exploring CSR in research with IES Research Networks Members, with a particular focus on responsibility towards employees, and the role HR professionals play in ‘influencing’ or ‘delivering’ the CSR agenda. Our research began with an examination of how organisations portray and promote their stance, typically through corporate websites and annual reports. Private sector organisations are more likely to present CSR activities up-front, including links to website recruitment and careers pages. Practical examples were sought (not just statements of intent) and those identified included policies on:

  • training and development

  • communication and consultation

  • health and safety

  • work-life balance

  • equality and diversity

  • pay and benefits.

Employees are frequently engaged in delivering projects or working in partnership with others to help their local community. However, the above list suggests that employees are also direct recipients or beneficiaries of CSR policies or agendas. So are such examples of CSR activity really anything new, or just a rebadging of good HR practice?

To answer these questions, we need help from HR professionals who are active in developing or delivering their organisations’ CSR agendas to the benefit of employees. If you think you could help, please email Linda Barber or call on +44(0)1273 763 400. A report will be completed in the autumn, and there will be a Research Networks event, specifically about CSR, in June.

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