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by Aman Singh Das | January 07, 2011


2010 has been a tough year in Human Resources. The effects of the Global Financial Crisis left many corporate headcount gaps, leaving those who remained doing twice as much in half the time for less reward and barely any recognition. It doesn’t really matter what the size of your business or where you are in the world, because the ripple effect has, as we close out the decade, reached just about everyone.

The three biggies on the minds of HR people amidst the turmoil have been development, retention and engagement.

HR managers have grappled with administering layoffs and restructuring businesses, rather than considering the alternatives to the Pavlov response of broad-scale dismissal letters. CSR, in this respect, as in other HR functional areas, remains a concept foreign to most human resources managers and one which they believe interferes with, rather than empowers, their impact on the business.

The Annual SHRM Conference

Looking back at the leading light conferences of 2010, we find that the SHRM conference in June—a big event on the HR calendar with 180 different concurrent sessions—barely referenced CSR. Aside from a session on green teams and a workshop by Dave Ulrich—a professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and a partner at consulting firm RBL Group—on "abundant organizations", the agenda was much like those of previous years.

The Annual Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Conference

Similarly, the CIPD conference—representing Europe's largest HR and development professional body—which took place in the U.K. in November was devoid of discussions which address values-based management, employee involvement in climate change and other sustainability programs. ( A sure way to know what people are talking about, or not, is to scan conference session headlines.)

Yet, now more than ever, we need an enlightened HR approach as CSR, far from being just another item on the long to-do list, is a compelling imperative for HR professionals that will assist them in serving business objectives, empowering people and providing a new platform for legitimacy of the HR voice in the executive meeting room.

2010: A Sad Year for HR

In 2010, HR made no significant advances in this respect.

Attention to new demographics and the rise of the millennials, the (GenY) fastest growing section of the workforce which wants a sustainable workplace, has not driven new HR recruiting practices or employer branding emphasizing sustainability.

Women in business continue to face non-inclusive and diversity-challenged organizational cultures which exclude them from revenue-generating and senior management roles, and continue to pay them less than males in equal jobs.

HR involvement in employee rights in the broader supply chain has not prevented human rights abuses nor has CSR been a core consideration in merger and acquisition due diligence. Worker suicides at France Telecom and Foxconn are a testimony to organizational cultures where basic human values are abused and the HR voice is either weak or ignored.

Sustainability does not feature in most corporate management training and development programs, and Green Teams are found in just a few organizations who have realized the value of employee participation in supporting a corporate carbon footprint reduction, often in spite of, rather than with the support of, the HR function.

Despite an HR Manager having been beaten to death by angry employees in late 2009, things didn't change much in 2010.

Looking Ahead: Retention & Engagement

In 2011, as HR managers address the challenges of development, retention and engagement, a realization that a CSR-enabled mindset is part of the solution, and not part of the problem, will be a welcome change. Let's hope that 2010 is the year before the year that HR woke up to CSHR.

--By Elaine Cohen

Elaine Cohen is a Sustainability Consultant and Reporter at Beyond Business, blogger on Sustainability Reporting, and author of: CSR for HR: A Necessary Business Partnership To Advance Responsible Business Practices.


Editor's Note: I hope that this series has been as uplifting and insightful for you as it has been for me. With the help of a diverse group of experts, "CSR 2010" reviewed, highlighted and analyzed some of 2010's biggest stories, disappointments and celebrations.

Next week, the series will culimate with a final post by Susan McPherson, senior vice president with communications firm Fenton, celebrating the voices of 2010 and her predictions on what 2011 could unfold for corporate America. Stay tuned, and please continue to send your feedback, comments and questions to In Good Company.

CSR 2010, Part X: How to Pursue a Responsible Career in 2011

CSR 2010, Part IX: 3 Ways Corporate India Can Embrace CSR in 2011

CSR 2010, Part VIII: A CEO's Reflections: "It Was The Best of Times; It Was The Worst of Times..."

CSR 2010, Part VII: Holding Up the Mirror to Sustainability in 2010

CSR 2010, Part VI: 5 Reasons Why Sustainability Grew Up in 2010

CSR 2010, Part V: New Times; Old Challenges

CSR 2010, Part IV: Corporate Social Responsibility Shifts From Cubicle to Boardroom

CSR 2010, Part III: Don't Let Your Job Search Define You

CSR 2010, Part II: Emerging Career Choices in Supply Chain & Sustainability

CSR 2010, Part I: The Sudden Explosion of Commentary on Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR 2010: Lasting Impressions From a Volatile Year


Filed Under: CSR