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We Ask the Experts

What role does HR play in supporting CSR & sustainability?

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When it comes to finding a role, or deciding to stay within an organisation, employees are increasingly looking for a job that provides them with more than just a paycheque at the end of the month. They want to work for an employer that cares for the environment, gives back to the community and is actively aspiring to be a force for good. Data has pointed towards the importance of this among staff and prospective talent.

According to a global survey from IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), 71% of employees and jobseekers say that environmentally-sustainable companies are more attractive employers. Additionally, the data – which was reported on by the CSR Journal – found that over two-thirds of prospective candidates are more likely to apply for and accept roles with environmentally and socially-responsible employers. Moreover, separate research has suggested that it is particularly crucial to the younger generations. For example, data published in PLAY’s Corporate Climate Crisis report found that almost a quarter (24%) of Gen Z staff wouldn’t work for an organisation profiting from unsustainable practices.

With the data highlighting that sustainability and good business credentials are important to employees and prospective talent, as the dedicated people function, HR should consider its own role in supporting the corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability agendas – given that this could have added benefits for the function in terms of attracting and retaining talent. To find out more, myGrapevine magazine speaks to five Advisory Board experts to get their insights...

Arti Kashyap-Aynsley,

Global Head of Health and Wellbeing,
Ocado Group

“The ESG (environmental, social and governance) framework acts as a key umbrella to which topics such as CSR, sustainability, health & wellbeing and inclusion all come together [under it]. Therefore, HR is a key partner in driving this increasingly important agenda especially as they often represent the people experience and talent attraction. Employees today are looking for the organisations that they work for to be more than just profitable and sustainable businesses.

“Instead, the expectation is increasingly that the organisations we work for will be responsible pillars in society and thereby act accordingly. Therefore, whilst ESG represents a great agenda for our investors, it is also at the heart of our employees and / or potential employees' minds and it is HR's responsibility to help bring this to life and also to help the business drive some of the key agenda items which fall under this umbrella.”

 

Arti Kashyap-Aynsley,

Global Head of Health and Wellbeing,
Ocado Group

“The ESG (environmental, social and governance) framework acts as a key umbrella to which topics such as CSR, sustainability, health & wellbeing and inclusion all come together [under it]. Therefore, HR is a key partner in driving this increasingly important agenda especially as they often represent the people experience and talent attraction. Employees today are looking for the organisations that they work for to be more than just profitable and sustainable businesses.

“Instead, the expectation is increasingly that the organisations we work for will be responsible pillars in society and thereby act accordingly. Therefore, whilst ESG represents a great agenda for our investors, it is also at the heart of our employees and / or potential employees mind and it is HR's responsibility to help bring this to life and also to help the business drive some of the key agenda items which fall under this umbrella.”

 

Carol Frost,

CPO, Metro Bank

“HR has a pivotal role in relation to the development and maintenance of the organisation’s purpose and sustainability. Beyond its own remit of people management practices, HR is ideally placed to be able to gauge, understand and help change organisational culture, the critical aspect to corporate responsibility that is often summed up as how we do things around here. Organisational culture runs through all aspects of a business and, in acting as its guardian, HR can act as a mirror of conscience to the rest of the organisation.

“At Metro Bank we consider colleague experience to be the bedrock of how we live our purpose ‘to be the UK’s best community bank’. Colleagues expect to be able to see us living up to our purpose in our everyday activities, from opportunities to volunteer in the community, to development opportunities which help them progress their careers creating sustainable talent pipelines, through to the office environment, how we support diversity in our dress code or even how we recycle.”

Carol Frost,

CPO, Metro Bank

“HR has a pivotal role in relation to the development and maintenance of the organisation’s purpose and sustainability. Beyond its own remit of people management practices, HR is ideally placed to be able to gauge, understand and help change organisational culture, the critical aspect to corporate responsibility that is often summed up as how we do things around here. Organisational culture runs through all aspects of a business and, in acting as its guardian, HR can act as a mirror of conscience to the rest of the organisation.

“At Metro Bank we consider colleague experience to be the bedrock of how we live our purpose ‘to be the UK’s best community bank’. Colleagues expect to be able to see us living up to our purpose in our everyday activities, from opportunities to volunteer in the community, to development opportunities which help them progress their careers creating sustainable talent pipelines, through to the office environment, how we support diversity in our dress code or even how we recycle.”

Dawn Moore,

Group People & Communications Director,
Murphy Group

“Engagement of employees is a priority in the success of sustainability in any organisation, and in particular the embedding of a trust and values-based culture is essential. HR therefore has to accept a lead responsibility for the business impacts of sustainability on employees, including for a people strategy that places things like employee wellbeing, health and safety, work-life balance, diversity and inclusion, recruitment, fair and inclusive reward practices and working with employees to ensure ‘giving back’ to the local communities in which the organisation works.

“It also then needs to work closely with all line managers in the business to ensure they understand their role in ensuring the business impacts of sustainability on employees, then help to translate this aspect of the business agenda into the ongoing sustainable impacts of each employee on each other, the business and the wider communities they work within. The sign of not only a good people strategy with a focus on sustainability, but also ultimately a good business strategy, is when every employee understands how their role impacts on the sustainability agenda and the application of sustainability principles can be seen in both internal and external actions and impacts.”

 

Dawn Moore,

Group People & Communications Director,
Murphy Group

“Engagement of employees is a priority in the success of sustainability in any organisation, and in particular the embedding of a trust and values-based culture is essential. HR therefore has to accept a lead responsibility for the business impacts of sustainability on employees, including for a people strategy that places things like employee wellbeing, health and safety, work-life balance, diversity and inclusion, recruitment, fair and inclusive reward practices and working with employees to ensure ‘giving back’ to the local communities in which the organisation works.

“It also then needs to work closely with all line managers in the business to ensure they understand their role in ensuring the business impacts of sustainability on employees, then help to translate this aspect of the business agenda into the ongoing sustainable impacts of each employee on each other, the business and the wider communities they work within. The sign of not only a good people strategy with a focus on sustainability, but also ultimately a good business strategy, is when every employee understands how their role impacts on the sustainability agenda and the application of sustainability principles can be seen in both internal and external actions and impacts.”

 

Amir Kabel,

Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion,
Burberry

“The ESG agenda is integral to the D&I and HR [agendas]. There is a community component that links to the D&I agenda, both serving a purpose to include and support underrepresented communities. The people part of ESG directly links to HR and company people agenda. I am currently sitting on a Sustainability Committee who have placed a focus on people in their ESG agenda, demonstrating the integral link to complete a holistic ESG approach.”

Amir Kabel,

Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion,
Burberry

“The ESG agenda is integral to the D&I and HR [agendas]. There is a community component that links to the D&I agenda, both serving a purpose to include and support underrepresented communities. The people part of ESG directly links to HR and company people agenda. I am currently sitting on a Sustainability Committee who have placed a focus on people in their ESG agenda, demonstrating the integral link to complete a holistic ESG approach.”

Jeanette Wheeler,

Chief HR Officer,
MHR International

“HR professionals often sit at the centre of a business, or a department, and have a general helicopter view of the daily activities.

“This gives a great insight into how business is conducted and an opportunity to help drive the business agenda. CSR and sustainability are two such plans that HR can help to champion. This includes ensuring they are represented on business or department agendas and supporting leaders to role model the behaviours needed to embed CSR and sustainability in the culture of the business.

“HR managers also have the ability to influence the people strategy and if the business is serious, ensure that CSR and sustainability are built into the job descriptions and recruitment processes. The company handbook, policies and procedures also need to reflect the businesses commitment as without the changes to these critical documents, the efforts can only be for marketing purposes. Without a fully embedded approach to CSR and sustainability in the operations, values and leadership of the business, employees are unlikely to take any agenda seriously and customers will believe the efforts are fake. HR has the ability to provide a strategic influence to a rising agenda and deliver direct benefits to the outcomes of the business.”

 

Jeanette Wheeler,

Chief HR Officer,
MHR International

“HR professionals often sit at the centre of a business, or a department, and have a general helicopter view of the daily activities.

“This gives a great insight into how business is conducted and an opportunity to help drive the business agenda. CSR and sustainability are two such plans that HR can help to champion. This includes ensuring they are represented on business or department agendas and supporting leaders to role model the behaviours needed to embed CSR and sustainability in the culture of the business.

“HR managers also have the ability to influence the people strategy and if the business is serious, ensure that CSR and sustainability are built into the job descriptions and recruitment processes. The company handbook, policies and procedures also need to reflect the businesses commitment as without the changes to these critical documents, the efforts can only be for marketing purposes. Without a fully embedded approach to CSR and sustainability in the operations, values and leadership of the business, employees are unlikely to take any agenda seriously and customers will believe the efforts are fake. HR has the ability to provide a strategic influence to a rising agenda and deliver direct benefits to the outcomes of the business.”

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