While working on my corporate social responsibility (CSR) client’s project this term, my group had an interesting dilemma: what counts as internal CSR? They are certainly part of the un-sexy side of CSR that hides unmentioned in the shadows of carbon footprinting and social impact. And even we experts spent the first half of our project almost exclusively thinking of “People” in community terms.

Looking at the three aspects of the triple-bottom line – People, Planet, Profit – it’s clear that a company’s internal activities that benefit employees would fall under “People”. But what about the non-employee internal activities such as a company’s mission, values and governance? Our client company – famous for its culture – is clearly a best-in-class example of taking care of its employees. But at what point do these internal measures become CSR? Should good HR = good CSR?

There were advocates on both sides of the debate, both with excellent points. The strongest case against internal CSR being: “I have trouble with classifying Human Resources functions as CSR, since a lot is required by law and what a company should be doing as part of its business”

I found myself, however, championing the side of internal CSR, realizing the argument of legal compliance is the same story in environmental regulation.

More importantly, not every firm is strategic in developing human capital. Nowhere had I seen a company incorporate the value of “Doing the Right Thing” into everything they do more so than our client. It was clear they went above and beyond the status quo.

We had plenty of recommendations on a CSR strategy, how to engage in community and environmental activities… but what could we possible recommend for internal CSR to a company that does so well?

Turns out they stumbled on the usual hurdle: communication. All it takes is structuring the reporting criteria and communicating activities according to each. So what’s the magic formula?

  • Executive pay
  • Diversity
  • Training & Development
  • Health & Benefits
  • Employee relations & employees as shareholders
  • Suppliers


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