Archive for December, 2008

CSR – HR = PR

When you take away the human element from your company’s corporate social responsibilities, it is simply a PR exercise. 

In Driving Success: Human Resources and Sustainable Development, Adine Mees and Jamie Bunham say that “if employees are not engaged, corporate social responsibility becomes an exercise in public relations. The credibility of an organisation will become damaged when it becomes evident that a company is not ‘walking the talk’.”

Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to green initiatives.  While some analysts are saying that green initiatives are simply “nice extras” that don’t affect employment decisions or employee satisfaction, people are telling me that their employees really do want to be part of the solution to climate change.

Commercial and residential buildings in Australia contribute 23 per cent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and the Australian Greenhouse Office estimates that emissions from Australian buildings will increase by 94 per cent in the period 1990-2010.  These are seriously alarming statistics, and Australian workers are waking up to the fact that our work practices and office space need to be green.

Trend watcher Reinier Evers says that perks and benefits, that he calls “perkonomics”, are a rising trend.  If that’s the case, green initiatives can be a good ‘perk’ that can add value to employees without costing the company a load of cash.  One recent study found that 79 per cent of Gen Y workers are more likely to accept a job offer from a company with a green focus.

Companies can save 17 per cent on salary costs simply by encouraging their employees to telework at least part of the week.  Flexible working conditions are a real ‘carrot’ to many prospective employees.  A survey of 1,400 CIOs across America found that offering flexible schedules was the second most important way to retain top technology talent.  More people (46 per cent) were keen for flexibility over larger pay packets (41 per cent).

Green buildings offer another ‘perk’ for employees looking for companies with green credentials.  According to the Green Building Council of Australia’s Dollars and Sense report, 66.6 per cent of business managers believe that renting or owning a green building has helped them to attract and retain employees.  This is reinforced by a Bond University online staff survey, in which 93 per cent of employees said it was important to work in a green office.

But here’s the rub: people are suspicious of “greenwashing”.  The majority (68%) of all adults in the US, for example, think that most companies say they are more environmentally friendly than they actually are.  This sentiment does not change widely by age, gender or geography, with all major demographics closely agreeing that “greenwashing” is a reality in today’s workplace.

So, think carefully about which policies can accurately demonstrate your company’s green credentials.  This may mean teleworking, it may mean green office space, actively encouraging car pooling, matching donations to green causes, or giving employees time off to volunteer for environmental causes.  Or it may mean something completely different.  What ever it is, make sure your policies are authentic and that you can ‘walk your talk’.

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