Corporate Social Responsibility, sustainability and engaging with employees

The excellent excellent Guardian Sustainable Business event jogged my memory about comments made at a recent Corporate Social Responsibility seminar on the crucial importance of engaging with employees.

At the event, which we blogged about, Head of Corporate Responsibility for Legal & General Group Plc Graham Preacey urged companies to break out of the corporate CSR silo, with collaboration, not confrontation, the solution.

Actually, we are working with one of the Big Six Energy Providers on a sustainability initiative for staff that focuses on helping every employee manage their utilities costs better at home. It’s the kind of collaborative, open-minded engagement that works exceptionally well, building communication and activity within an organisation.

Anyway, Graham Preacey made a particularly resonant point, that activism in organisations could be very powerful. As a general cultural rule, 15% of people are activists by nature/character so Corporate Responsibility departments needed to harness these people and their energy in the business context to place systemic pressure for change internally.

Active engagement

The event had many echoes of this idea but I still wondered about the detail. How exactly does a company CSR department tap the activist employee energies and how do they go a step further by inspiring other staff?

Regular, absorbing and challenging training/education is surely important. As a rule, people are inspired when they are learning and so any engagement should have this as a core element.

Social media channels are ideal conduits for this deeper, more active engagement both inside and outside the company. These channels naturally lend themselves to issue-based communications.

The engagement programme should be pro-active instead of reactive and measurable against internal corporate goals/targets.

Final thought – there should be a thorough methodology, which can be one of the biggest challenges. For example, it took Forum for the Future three-and-a-half years to develop a case for sustainability change and action in the shipping sector, working with a wide range of business and Third Sector partners.

There are now four work streams in place now, a result of collective action for maximum impact with a first report on sustainability-change progress at end of this year



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