Academy aims to entrench CSR as day-to-day concern

The UK is a world leader for corporate social responsibility (CSR), but
organisations are still reluctant to get involved, according to the minister
responsible, Stephen Timms.

Speaking to Personnel Today ahead of last week’s the launch of the
Government’s CSR Academy, Timms said UK companies needed to step up their
efforts on CSR.

"The take-up of CSR remains patchy," he said. "There are some
superb examples, but others are not doing very much at all."

Timms said HR departments should take a leading role in encouraging managers
at all levels to promote CSR policies.

"HR makes a really important contribution," he said. "CSR
should routinely be part of the development of managers’ skills. These skills
will not be mainstream unless HR sees it as an important aspect of their

The CSR Academy will provide a central source of information for training
and development with the aim of integrating CSR into day-to-day business
practice, said Timms.

"I’m confident it will go a long way to help companies put into
practice the core principles of CSR and make it a reality," he said.

Timms said there was already a strong base of CSR activity for UK companies
to build on.

"The UK is a leader on CSR," he said. "We have a unique mix
of world leading firms and passionate non-governmental organisations such as
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth which push the CSR message."

Timms highlighted an initiative at utility firm National Grid Transco as an
example of CSR best practice.

In 2003, the company found that it was struggling to recruit pipeline
engineers, so it decided to offer training to people in young offenders’

The company then recruited more than 100 new employees through the scheme –
some of whom proved excellent. As a result, only 6 per cent have re-offended,
compared to the national average of 70 per cent.

This proves CSR is good for the bottom line as well as socially, Timms said.
"We are not talking about philanthropy any more – commercial drivers are
the key," he said.

Forthcoming changes to the regulations governing operational and financial
reports will play a big role in driving the take-up of CSR, by increasing the
amount and the quality of company reporting, Timms said.

The law will require the largest 1,000 global companies to provide annual
information on social and environmental issues to stakeholders. It will only
cover information that is relevant to the running of the business. Consultation
on the legislation ends on 6 August with an international framework agreement
due by October.

By Daniel Thomas

The six-step CSR ‘competency framework’

The CSR Academy includes a ‘competency framework’, which is a
template designed to help managers integrate CSR within their organisations. It
consists of six core characteristics:

– Understanding society Understanding the role of each player
in society – government, business, trade unions, non-governmental organisations
and civil society;

– Building capacity External partnerships and creating
strategic networks and alliances

– Questioning ‘business as usual’ Openness to new ideas,
challenging others to adopt new ways of thinking and questioning ‘business as
usual’ attitudes

– Stakeholder relations Identifying stakeholders, building
relations externally and internally, engaging in consultation and balancing

– Strategic view Taking a strategic view of the business

– Harnessing diversity Respecting diversity and adjusting the
approach to different situations.

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