Is Eastern Europe taking the lead?

The publication of CSR for HR, the first book which addresses the way the Human Resources function should adapt to a CSR mindset, has been well received around the world, no more so than in Eastern Europe where I have spoken at conferences in Ukraine and Romania during the last few months. Indeed, the Post-Privatisation Foundation (FPP) , the first Romanian foundation devoted solely to entrepreneurship, created in 1996 by the European Commission, undertook to translate and publish the first foreign edition in Romanian (available online here). FPP is a private organisation that promotes entrepreneurial education and supports initiatives aimed at the sustainable development of the Romanian business environment, with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises. Last week at the launch of this Romanian edition, at the annual meeting of ARC Romania, an organisation advancing corporate community investment, I was pleased to present some of the key themes of CSR for HR, with an emphasis on why both CSR and HR leadership can benefit from forging a true partnership to advance business sustainability. The sad fact is that only 6% of HR Managers are engaged in CSR strategy development and only 25% are engaged in implementing CSR in companies, based on a survey conducted by the U.S. Society for Human Resources Management in 2010. Despite the survey finding that improved employee morale is one of the main benefits of CSR, a very small number of HR Managers are actually involved in making it happen.

So what is holding the HR function back? Is it that HR Managers are sadly unaware of the changes taking place in business strategy? Is it that HR Managers don’t feel it’s part of their job? Is it that their heads are buried in the sand, as they try to do better at recruitment, engagement and retention challenges, without realising that there are the very aspects of Human Resources Management that a CSR approach can support? Is it that there is just no directive from the C-suite to get on with it?

For the past year now I have been repeating my mantra ‘It is time for HR to wake up to CSR’ at every opportunity. Only truly engaging processes with result in truly engaged employees. However, change is happening slowly. The HR function is still far from transformation. HR Managers have still not woken up. So perhaps it is time for CSR Managers to take the lead. Perhaps enlightened CSR Managers should be the ones to proactively invite the active involvement of their HR colleagues in both CSR strategy and implementation. CSR by nature should be a collaborative profession, as driving CSR in any business requires the active involvement of all functional and staff leadership. Perhaps it is CSR that needs to wake up to HR?

Either way, I was pleased, at the conference in Bucharest last week, to hear positive reactions from those present. I was encouraged by the audience’s agreement with the need for greater partnership within a business as a platform to deliver greater partnerships between a business and external stakeholders. Perhaps Eastern Europe is leading the way in a new spirit of CSR and HR?


Elaine Cohen
Greenleaf Author

Elaine Cohen is a Sustainability Consultant and Reporter at Beyond Business, blogger on sustainability reporting and author of CSR for HR.

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AVAILABLE NOW: CSR for HR: A Necessary Partnership for Advancing Responsible Business Practices is both a wake-up call and a toolkit and will be essential reading for practitioners in both HR and CSR, as well as being a sought-after teaching resource for both executives and students. Order now direct from Greenleaf to recieve a 20% discount.

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