By Daniel Hunter

More than half (56%) of general managers consider HR’s contribution to their organisations’ corporate responsibility agenda as vital, according to research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

However, the fact that more than four fifths (81%) of HR managers believe they are vital shows a clear reality gap between where HR would like to be in leading corporate responsibility and its actual standing in the organisation.

As the report, The role of HR in corporate responsibility, highlights, focus on corporate responsibility is rising despite, or even because of, the economic climate. Almost a quarter of managers surveyed (22%) stated that their organisations had increased focus on corporate responsibility over the last year, with only 6% stating that the focus had reduced. The CIPD argues there is a clear opportunity for HR to step up to the challenge and help make a significant difference to this area of real business importance.

Jonny Gifford, Research Adviser at the CIPD and author of the report, said: “Corporate responsibility needs to be owned by all functions and HR does not need to become the in-house experts on issues like carbon emissions or energy policies. But HR should understand how corporate responsibility needs to be embedded through an organisation and its wider value chain and be able and willing to ask the challenging ethical questions. As well as overseeing the ethical treatment of employees (a key strand of corporate responsibility), HR is uniquely placed to understand and help change organisational culture, which lies at the heart of embedding corporate responsibility into the DNA of the organisation.”

Commenting on the research, Peter Cheese, Chief Executive at the CIPD, said: “Today’s business environment, and the social and environmental context, means that corporate responsibility continues to take on ever greater importance — it has importance to regulators, customers, employees and other stakeholders alike. Recent scandals are a powerful reminder and show that leaders at all levels need to demonstrate integrity and awareness. HR leaders are well placed to provide a ‘mirror of conscience’ as well as insight in to the changes needed, many of which relate to culture and behaviours and the practices and processes which reinforce these.”

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