Brand boost

Social commitment is an essential ingredient to the building of a successful employer brand. HRM looks at how a company's corporate social responsibility efforts can help with talent attraction and retention

In today’s competitive marketplace, an organisation’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts have a strong bearing on the success of its recruitment activities. Top talent are becoming more discerning about their choice of employer and socially responsible companies are edging out the competition.

According to a 2011 study published by the Society of Human Resource Management, 49% of businesses engaging in sustainable workplace or business practices say that involvement in sustainability had been critical in creating a positive employer brand that attracted top talent.

In addition, 40% of those surveyed also reported that involvement in sustainability was “very important” in improving employee retention, and 33% said it was “very important” in developing the organisation’s leaders.

Sustainability and responsibility are central themes in day-to-day work at beverages company Diageo. “We have in place a strategy to reduce the social and environmental impacts of every aspect of our business – from sourcing raw materials, to running our manufacturing safely and efficiently, to influencing how our brands are sold and consumed,” says Ada Wong, Communications and Engagement Manager – Supply, Asia-Pacific, Diageo.

In particular, Diageo has set itself stretched environmental targets. By 2015, it hopes to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%, improve water efficiency by 30%, reduce wasted water at water-stressed sites by 50%, reduce the polluting power of waste water by 60%, and fully eliminate waste to landfill. “To date, we have achieved three out of the five targets in Asia-Pacific and I am excited to say that we are well on our way to delivering on all of them,” shares Wong. 

At DHL Express Southeast Asia, corporate responsibility is not about being satisfied with having accomplished a few good community projects. According to its vice president of HR, A Mateen, an organisation also needs to consider the following questions: Is our economic success enabling social progress? Are we considering the environmental impact of our operations? And are we making decisions in the long-term interest of our customers and employees?

“Companies that integrate sustainability programmes into their corporate strategy, such as engaging employees to participate in green initiatives or leveraging market presence to encourage sustainable and meaningful partnerships, are able to better realise the benefits in both the short and long term,” says Mateen.

Talent attraction

According to the 2011 Deloitte Volunteer Impact survey, corporate volunteer programmes are a key consideration factor for 61% of millennials (generation Y) when making a job decision. The best talents in the workforce not only want to work in organisations where they can thrive, but also prefer to work for companies that practice good corporate citizenship, says Mateen. “DHL’s active involvement with local communities has helped define our identity and positioned us to better attract and retain talent,” he adds.

Dedicated programmes at DHL have not only helped to improve its employees’ motivation and identification but have also increased awareness of corporate responsibility, enhanced recognition for engagement in this area, and strengthened the organisation’s competitiveness, shares Mateen.

Environmental sustainability is also a key element of Diageo’s attraction as a recruiter, says Wong, noting that graduate candidates are constantly asking about the company’s sustainability programme during interviews.
Diageo’s sustainability and responsibility programme is becoming increasingly important for retaining and recruiting the best talent, is one of its most important resources and an area of increasing competition in emerging markets, Wong explains. “The environmental contribution of employees drives general performance and productivity, and there is a correlation between engagement around environment, and super-engaged employees. We recognise that internal engagement on environmental issues drives business growth.”

CSR-related activities have also been positively received at American Express. “Increasingly, we find that people want to join an organisation which is a good corporate citizen. This gives them a greater sense of wellbeing and purpose in their work, and is often a source of pride,” says Yoshimi Nakajima, Singapore Country Manager, American Express

 “American Express employees who support company-driven CSR activities, often tell us that they feel a sense of deep gratitude after each experience,” she adds.

CSR is a great way for top management to connect with employees on the ground. American Express encourages its leaders to participate in team events to build relationships and engagement in their teams, and they often opt for charity events to do this. “When we take part in charity events, leaders and employees serve the community together, side by side. It is a great opportunity to deepen relationships within the team, and at all levels of the organisation,” says Nakajima.

Getting employees involved

CSR might not be at the top of the agenda for employees caught up in the daily grind. It is therefore important for organisations to get their buy-in and see the value of their efforts.

One challenge facing Diageo is the fact that a large portion of its environmental targets are manufacturing-focused. “We needed to communicate the full spectrum of Diageo’s environmental initiatives – from renewable energy installations at our manufacturing sites to recycling projects in the offices – to employees across all levels of the business so that even our office-based teams are clued in to the measures we’ve taken to drive sustainability at our manufacturing sites,” says Wong.

To achieve this objective, Diageo Asia-Pacific Supply and Procurement division launched the region’s first dedicated environmental action campaign in March last year. “Our aim was to engage Diageo’s Asia-Pacific employees across all business functions in our high-level environmental targets, fostering a mentality that every employee’s actions can contribute to overall environmental success,” says Wong.

Activities included a “Hands Up for the Environment Day” – an afternoon of activities that coincided symbolically with World Water Day. The company aimed to employ a fun, engaging and interactive way to educate its team, and turned its in-house bar into a showcase of environmental activity and targets. The set-up clearly showcased a 360-degree view of the company’s targets to each and every employee, Wong says.

Diageo also created a microsite online to invite employees from across Diageo’s Asia-Pacific offices to start their own campaign by pledging their support to the environment. “Each employee that participated added their own pledge to the site and in return received a “Hands Up for the Environment” recyclable bag and a branded email signature to upload to their sign-offs, showcasing their support of the campaign both internally to their colleagues and externally,” Wong says. 

In companies such as American Express, senior leaders serve as CSR role-models by leading and participating in charity events. “I am the executive sponsor of our Charity Task Force, a self-organised employee network. I am actively engaged in the planning and execution of events it plans throughout the year,” says Nakajima. “By encouraging employees to give back to the community and working with them, we are able to bond as a team and make a difference together.” 

Some past activities organised by American Express include wall painting of HDB flats occupied by elderly residents, serving Lo Hei dinner for elderly residents during Chinese New Year, and educating young children on the value of money.

To keep employees informed about the CSR possibilities available, DHL Express organised a dedicated “Info Fair” for staff to generate generate greater awareness of the company’s “Living Responsibility” pillars. These pillars are: “GoGreen” (environmental protection), “GoTeach” (championing education) and “GoHelp” (delivering assistance to community members in need). “The two-day Info Fair allowed DHL employees to learn and appreciate the importance of volunteering through interesting games and puzzles,” says Mateen. 

Case Study
Making a bald statement
DHL Express Singapore has organised its annual Hair for Hope satellite event since 2010, and has seen an increasing number of employees taking part. For the first time this year, all business units with the Deutsche Post DHL group came together to support the cause. About 70 DHL employees stepped forward courageously and volunteered to make a “bald” statement at the 2013 event. In addition, DHL Singapore successfully raised over $21,000.
Through this event, the group not only hopes to raise funds for the cancer-stricken children but also to educate and raise awareness of childhood cancer amongst fellow DHL colleagues.


Top tips for a successful CSR strategy
•          Align your CSR strategy with the values of the organisation
The way it operates in accordance with those values becomes the measuring stick in CSR. Long-term trustworthiness and integrity always trump short-term profits and public relations gimmicks.
•          Set clear goals for the CSR strategy and programme
Before putting together a plan, it is important to set clear goals and objectives. This will help the team develop a more robust plan that will deliver greater benefits to the organisation and the community.
•          Set measurable and achievable targets
Failing to meet CSR commitments may have a negative impact and could even affect the company’s reputation. To ensure effective implementation, measurable, and achievable targets must be set.
•          Be highly engaging and actively communicate your CSR plans
Employees must believe that the business is committed, and must fully understand the goals and the ways in which they can contribute. A tight communications plan will bring activations to life and generate buzz pre, during and post-event for sustained awareness
•          Leaders must walk the talk
For an organisation to successfully drive CSR, the leaders must be committed to make a difference and lead by example. Having buy-in from the C-level will greatly strengthen the company’s commitment, enhance the overall brand positioning, and further drive participation amongst employees.
Source: American Express, DHL Express and Diageo
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