HR has a vital role to play in shifting the current 'trend' of CSR from talk to action, says Kathy Sutton
Is corporate social responsibility (CSR) nothing more than a contorted mixture of PR puffery and window dressing? Maybe it is a passing fad supported by an unholy alliance of deranged chief executives who want to change the world rather than run their business? Some believe it.
Others believe that business is replacing the traditional role of governments and that CSR should be the new force for good in the global world.
One thing is certain: companies will increasingly need to show how they integrate social, environmental and ethical concerns into their business operations in future.
The pressures are here to stay, and the social expectations of today's graduates are being matched - at least in the UK - with a changing and evolving legal framework.
There will be a revolution in the legal framework during the next few years. The EU Information and Consultation directive will have a profound effect on how companies doing business in the UK inform and consult with their employees.
It will directly impact the nature of decision-making within a company, requiring a more open, transparent and inclusive approach. Genuine consultation with employees could lead to companies leaning much more towards a partnership approach within the company - a vital ingredient of successful CSR development.
The proposals in the Company Law White Paper support and foster partnership working in the context of wider CSR development. They bring personnel matters into the boardroom in a new way. If the proposals go ahead, directors will have to consider all matters affecting business success, including relationships with staff and a company's environmental and community impact.
Larger companies will need to produce an Operating and Financial Review (OFR) that includes information on so-called soft issues, including employee relationships, intangible assets, know-how and brands. Directors will need to consider whether they should include the company's employment, environmental, social and community policies in the OFR. They may face court challenges if they do not.
Much of what is supposed to be new about CSR is simply about good management, delivering sustained shareholder value by being sensitive to the society and markets in which a company operates, and paying more than lip