While I initially questioned the inclusion of HR practices in evaluating a company’s CSR, a Levi Corporation case study demonstrated to me the connection between CSR and employees. Levi’s dedication to treating its employees right was thoroughly tested when the company had to lay off over a thousand factory workers due to outsourcing in the 1990s. Aside from the ethical desire to do the right thing for its employees, Levi’s recognized that from a business perspective, its values-driven history was a key foundation of its strong brand.

A positive working environment includes job stability, good wages and benefits, training and development opportunities. The best employers also create a culture that promotes Individuality, ownership, creativity and an inclusive, diverse work environment. Such cultures have tangible benefits such as facilitating hiring and retention and improving operations, product offering and brand. Furthermore, industry does not seem to matter in being a good employer – Fortune’s Top 100 employers laud shoe company Zappos for promoting creativity and individuality, NetApp for providing five paid-volunteer days, and the Container Store’s emphasis on safety, service and fun.

A 2007 study by the National Consumer League indicated that consumers view treatment of employees as the second most important criteria in good corporate citizenship, behind community responsibility. Good citizenship included paying workers a living wage and dedication to employee treatment and safety. Consumers placed “treats and pays its employees well” as being more integral to CSR than even charitable giving or the environment. Furthermore, downturns often demonstrate a company’s resolve to its employees. Cisco, which consistently ranks as a top employer, addressed dot-com pressures by subsidizing laid-off employees who went to work for non-profits or pursued additional education.

Companies should ensure that, in the quest for social and environmental impact, they do not overlook the importance of positively shaping their own employees’ lives.


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