CSR Perspectives: A Chat with Elaine Cohen, author of 'CSR for HR'

Yesterday I had the chance to have an e-interview with Elaine Cohen. Elaine is based in Israel and is one of the leading voices of CSR and sustainable business as well as an HR consultant. She just recently published a book entitled 'CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices.'

A self-confessed Chunky Monkey and general ice-cream addict, Elaine brings some fresh perspectives to HR and CSR. According to her, "HR are the custodians of corporate culture which is reflected in the way people in a business do things. Given that CSR is a long term change process about how the business achieves results in a way which is different from traditional practice, the HR role is critical to ensuring what I call a CSR-enabled culture."

She said that collaboration between CSR, business leaders and HR leaders is needed for a change in business. She said that HR plays a critical role in "the development of a culture of diversity and inclusion." For incorporating an environment of strategic CSR into a business, HR plays a pivotal role in "the creation of a 'green' culture in the business and processes for engaging employees in a company's green practices."

When I asked her about CSR-HR intergration in smaller companies, she stated that small business may not have a dedicated CSR Manager and the HR team may be small. In these instances it may well be the HR Manager who will take the lead in community-based CSR involvement. In such a case, "the HR Manager needs to broaden her understanding of how a CSR approach affects the entire business and engage a cross-functional team to work together on CSR."

She described her book CSR for HR as, "the journey that one HR Manager follows to get to a deep understanding of what CSR is and what it means for her in her role as an HR Manager. During this journey, she discovers all the interrelating aspects of the HR function with the themes of CSR and understands how HR can adapt its activities to include a CSR approach. By the end of the book, the HR Manager understands that CSR for HR is actually an HR imperative which delivers better results for the business, for the people and ultimately, supports and strengthens the HR role itself."

She said she was prompted to write her book because HR Managers can do so much to advance CSR. She said that the role of HR is to, "create processes whereby all employees are aware, understand the interaction between sustainability of their own role, and committed and motivated to make change." This she opined is necessary to promote CSR activities, she strongly believes that one feeds the other and its about time there is stronger CSR-HR collaboration. She elaborated that, "we often see small actions in the daily activities of businesses which are the result of all employees in the product supply chain not being aware/committed. These actions can add up to a big difference in a company's overall impact. HR needs to create processes whereby all employees are aware, understand the interaction between sustainability of their own role, and committed and motivated to make change."

When I asked Elaine what her favourite book is, she mentioned 'Business as Unusual' by Body Shop founder Anita Roddick. What is the key message of her own book? "It is time for HR to wake up to CSR!"

Photo: The cover of Elaine Cohen's new book CSR for HR. Thanks to Elaine for her valuable time.