Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What's reporting without culture?

Back in 2010, I published my first book, CSR for HR, a guide to the way Human Resources Managers can drive corporate responsibility, using their leverage at the center of organizations to encourage and empower an accountable culture. While the book was a great success ... by all accounts... and I continue to receive positive comments ... the HR profession has not really transformed itself into a champion of CSR... far from it. Of course, HR Managers may not see championing CSR as their remit. But that's only because they do not realize that CSR is actually a way to reinforce and strengthen the HR function in any organization. Since my book was published, the role of employees in driving CSR and the need to engage employees has moved higher up the agenda. In fact, almost every Sustainability Report you read today has some reference to employee engagement and many make the link between engagement and positive sustainability outcomes. 

That's as it should be. Sustainability reporting as a process should involve employees and inspire them. Rather than being the headache it often is, it can be a tool to create elevated levels of empowerment and engagement of employees. Some companies testify to this. Corus Entertainment in Canada regularly celebrates employees in annual sustainability reports and rewards them for their citizenship efforts. The Corus reports present a workplace where accountability is a value and employees are engaged and empowered to do their best for themselves and each other, the company, the community and the planet. 

A string of workplace awards tend to confirm this position.

3M's 2015 Sustainability Report covers how the company encourages and empowers employees to be creative  with sustainability in mind.

"During the 2014 Sustainability Week, we addressed global sustainability challenges we all face every day at home and at work. 3Mers were asked to think creatively, collaborate, and innovate with the shared goal of making life better... And we led a Shark Tank-inspired Power Pitch, which allowed teams of employees to suggest business ideas with a sustainability focus to compete for research and development funding with winners chosen through global text voting by their peers."

The culture of sustainability is reinforced in other ways, such as use of social media - an example below from Pinterest:

Anyway, also in 2010, I wrote on this blog about H&M and the crisis of the discarded garments in New York. The point was that, in an organization that had truly embedded CSR culture and practice, such an instance might not have happened. Employees would know how to connect their actions to potential issues on the CSR radar (more about the radar in an upcoming post. Hint: Datamaran). The BIC blip reminded me of that this week. How many marketeers just have no clue? How much insensitivity is an organization allowed to demonstrate at the same time as professing to support a CSR approach? At what point does an organization realize that CSR is a way of being, not just a project of doing?  And that even marketing folks need an invitation to the party.

Maybe you saw the BIC blip  example reported in the Guardian this past week ...

Who on earth in their right mind could think this would be encouraging or inspiring for women? You would have to be a total idiot to create something like this and an even greater idiot for authorizing it, and a double greater idiot for publishing it. Look like a girl? Think like a man? Come on....Even if the intention was positive, the gaping cavern between intent and result testifies to a lack of embedded culture of sensitivity to others. How can employees of a responsible business be so misguided? Does it really need an onslaught of criticism on social media to tell them they got it so wrong? 

BIC has a very clear Code of Ethics that employees are bound to uphold. It includes the company's approach to Human Rights and provides guidance for employees in the principles of communicating and engaging with each other.

The code does not specifically include reference to responsible marketing, though some indirect references can be found in  BIC's  2014 Sustainable Development Report

Generally BIC refers to the marketing teams's involvement in advancing the sustainable development program and marketing initiatives, such as:

"All of the professional functions involved (marketing, communication, sales) are equipped with the tools they need to explain BIC’s Sustainable Development Program."

Another reference to marketeers is an initiative to engage them through  a BIC recycling program in partnership with TerraCycle. This was the first initiative to collect and recycle writing instruments in France,  launched in 2011, and now expanded to several countries in Europe. BIC talks about this program as "inspiring marketeers to support the circular economy."

However, there's no reference to marketing communications and advertising as necessarily reflecting a respectful organization culture. BIC conducts a values survey among employees every 2 years to review "Values in Action" and also makes awards to employees who demonstrate core values of ethics and responsibility and more.  Results of the surveys are presented to employees. Therefore it seems that there are platforms to talk about culture, values, respectful communications and sustainable development. However, when it comes to the marketing department, there may be a need for some more work. 

It seems to me that BIC might be well served by developing and publishing a formal policy of responsible marketing and marketing communications. At the same time, BIC should undertake an intensive training program on diversity and inclusion for everyone involved in corporate and marketing communications. 

In the meantime, I don't plan to follow BIC's advice ... I'd rather :

LOOK like me
ACT like me
THINK like me
WORK like me 

I may not be perfect but at least  - hey - it's me. 

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise Guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices . Contact me via Twitter (@elainecohen)  or via my business website www.b-yond.biz   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Need help writing your first / next Sustainability Report? Contact elaine: info@b-yond.biz   

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