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CSR for HR
Buy now

CSR for HR

A Necessary Partnership for Advancing Responsible Business Practices 

Elaine Cohen
October 2010   314+vi pp   234 x 156 mm  
hardback   ISBN 978-1-906093-46-4   £24.95  

Alternative formats: eBook (PDF)

Review copies   Inspection copies

"Cohen does an outstanding job showing the connection between HR and CSR ... Her ideas are fresh; her examples are relevant; and her writing is clear." Dave Ulrich

The HR function is the key partner in embedding CSR and Sustainability initiatives in any organisation, as this can be achieved only when a company educates, engages and empowers its entire workforce.

CSR for HR blog - which companies are profiled in the book

If I could change one thing about HR... Elaine Cohen's guest post on XpertHR

The Story of CSR for HR (slide show)

HR and sustainability: partner or pioneer? Read Elaine Cohen’s piece in The Guardian’s Sustainable Business blog

CSR Perspectives: A Chat with Elaine Cohen, author of CSR for HR, Justmeans, November 2010

“Time to put the HR in CSR” Elaine Cohen interviewed by HR magazine, 14 Jan 2011

Preview samples   Chapter 1

Arguably, the Human Resources (HR) function is the key partner in embedding Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability initiatives in any organisation, as this can be achieved only when a company educates, engages and empowers its entire workforce.

This book goes even further and proposes that the HR function has a responsibility to be proactive in leading the way in establishing a company-wide CSR-enabled culture. And, yet, this is not happening. HR managers are preoccupied with their traditional roles of organisational development, recruitment, training and compensation, and are failing to see the opportunities that CSR brings for them as professionals and for their organisations.

CSR for HR has been designed to change the game. It provides HR managers with a thorough understanding of the drivers and principles of CSR and a practical step-by-step guide to the way CSR interfaces with every HR function. Recruitment, compensation, training, employee communications, employee well-being, health & safety, employee rights, involvement in the community, and employee impacts on the environment are all discussed from the CSR–HR standpoint, with many clear examples showing how HR can leverage CSR strategies to deliver greater benefit for the business, for employees, for society, for the environment and, ultimately, for HR professionals themselves.

The HR function plays a critical role in embedding a values-based, strategic CSR mind-set and establishing an organisational culture that meets the needs of today’s stakeholders. HR professionals who understand this and adapt accordingly will reap the benefits. The book explains why, how and what to do next, offering detailed advice, tools, a roadmap to get started and hundreds of tips from companies around the world, including original content from HR managers of large corporations.

Written from the standpoint of an HR professional waking up to the strategic possibilities of incorporating CSR in her day-to-day role, the book has an easy and engaging style, ideal for the busy managerial reader. CSR for HR is both a wake-up call and a toolkit and will be essential reading for practitioners in both HR and CSR, as well as being a sought-after teaching resource for both executives and students.


I’ve been following Elaine’s work for a while, mostly through her Twitter account – @ElaineCohen – and by attending a couple of virtual events on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) where she was a speaker. So when her book was recently published I didn’t miss the opportunity to read it. … CSR for HR is a very meaningful book by a knowledgeable author whose effective storytelling provides the compelling evidence that “a partnership” – between HR and CSR – is needed to advance “responsible business practices”. Although the Author has included few fictional characters to support her point, the situations, comments and people described in the book are absolutely realistic and will sound familiar to most of the readers. Along with those fictional characters, Elaine Cohen mentions and quotes some of the most well-known experts working in the fields of HR, CSR and Sustainability such as Julie Urlaub of Taiga Company, Chris Jarvis of Realized Worth or Cathy Joseph. Finally, it’s nice to see that the Author has managed to stay away from any technical jargon and smartly uses humor and anecdotes all along the narrative.

… The book, as the author puts it, is a “wake up call” for the HR profession and a toolkit to help members of that profession becoming Corporate Social Human Resources (CSHR) Manager. It’s also a perfect introduction to CSR and sustainability for anyone willing to develop their understanding of those concepts through concrete examples and support the advance of “responsible business practices”. However, for HR professionals, Elaine’s book is much more than an introduction: it’s a practical guide for designing and conducting specific actions that aim to build CSR credibility, which is, as the book points out, “dependent on delivery and not on rhetoric.”

The book describes a comprehensive range of actions that HR professionals can take to deliver sound CSR results, from Ethics, Human Rights, Employee engagement and reward to Green Teams and Volunteering Programs. For each of those topics, the Author offers real life examples, thoroughly presented, including useful facts and links for who’d like to get into further details. But the book should not be seen as a manual or a recipe book only. It highlights, in my opinion, something critical: what is essential is the process of building a sustainability strategy and defining the CSR activities that support it. Simply copying what others are doing is not an option, for the strategy, to be successful, must be authentic, not driven by PR considerations and therefore developed by each company based on their particular internal and external situations. However, there’s no need to “reinvent the wheel”, as the achievements of the pioneers and practitioners in this field constitute a solid set of references for HR professionals who understand that, not only CSR is “here to stay”, but is an essential part of their job. The Author demonstrates through the book that cooperation and teamwork, both internal and external, are key in order to build a successful CSR roadmap and that what matters, as Arena tells Sharon, are “small steps and small wins”.

Yesterday I met up with my friend Victoria, a young and talented HR manager, working with a multinational IT company and I asked her what she knew about Corporate Social Responsibility and if it was part of her role and responsibilities. She, almost literally, answered: “I have to admit that I don’t know what corporate social responsibility involves. I’m not sure why it’s important. ” We enjoyed our Cookie Dough ice cream, chatting about other topics, before having a walk along the sea in Barcelona. When I went back home I ordered a copy of CSR for HR . It will be the perfect Christmas gift for Victoria and, hopefully, the beginning of a great journey!
Aequology’s Blog, 12 December 2010 Full review


What Cohen offers is a detailed execution plan on how to embed CSR into the way of managing people. And since this is contrary to the majority of business practices, she lets us watch as a manager, Sharon, goes through the discovery process of how much more powerful and even efficient this is, than the fragmented programmatic method. She is engaged by Arena, who serves as the Socratic teacher and coach in Sharon’s discovery. This allows Cohen to unfold a little at a time, of the changes necessary to shift to the integrated approach, which we eventually will come to see as much simpler … What we get is an introduction to a different kind of workplace where dialogue and engagement form the basis of decision making, all necessary to employees taking more CSR responsibility into their daily lives …You really get the feeling of what it would be like to see CSR from the shoes of a fully engaged employee.

In addition to the philosophical and practical foundation for her recommendations in new practices, Cohen provides a roadmap for the new infrastructure that will be necessary to connect employees with stakeholders in a this more direct and integrated way and a roadmap to build a plan. And the of stories of real companies that are woven in to the manager’s learning experience, ones who have taken on the new infrastructure and practices offered, gives us more confidence, that this is not all hypothetical.

... The workbook that has been laid out through the book, gives an easy way to review the how-to but with the story still in our mind. Somehow the story telling mode makes it feel more doable.
Carol Sanford blog, 1 December 2010 Full review
See also an interview with Elaine Cohen on the same blog


... the book is a persuasive argument for connecting CSR with a company's human resources function. Having spent over 20 years in senior leadership positions with companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever, Cohen's narratives come from experience … Cohen's 300-page missive then comes as a bible of sorts. Written in a conversational manner -- which lends itself to an easy read on an otherwise weighty topic -- the book follows two accomplished HR professionals who clearly love their jobs. The difference: Sharon Black sees her job as a strictly people management function (recruitment, compensation, benefits, training, etc.) while Arena Dardelle defines human resources as a vital driver of the company's long-term sustainability. By the way, both Sharon and Arena are fictional characters.

How do the two align? This is where the true value of the book lies.

Chapter by chapter, Cohen examines how functionalities like employee welfare, organizational development, compensation, benefits, training, recruitment and retention, diversity and inclusion, and even employee rights -- long considered traditional HR duties first to be dispensed with in a recession, budget-constrained and full of regulatory jargon -- tie into a company's lifecycle, strengthen its brand and guarantee long-term stability. Her use of numerous case studies like The Body Shop, GE's ecomagination, Gap, Nike, Microsoft, Patagonia, Timberland and many others, peppered throughout the pages, further add a quotient of practical realism.

… This gem will sit on my desk not only as an indispensable reference tool, but also as a constant reminder that a wealth of innovation remains untouched, just an arm's length away.
Aman Singh,, CSRwire, 15 November 2010 Full review


CSR FOR HR or HR FOR CSR – a Win Win For Everybody
Reading CSR for HR by Elaine Cohen has successfully answered some key questions that have I been chewing over in my head ... this book was an eye opener for me...

... And while ‘the intended audience is anyone practising, teaching, learning, aspiring to be in the HR function’, I see value in expanded the audience to include anyone practicing, or aspiring to be in the CSR function as well.

... Yes, Elaine Cohen’s book is a must read for anyone in HR function of any sized organization, and let’s not forget for CSR practitioners too.
Lalia Helmer, Business that Cares blog Full review


A book that brings CSR to life

Elaine Cohen has been a powerful voice in the corporate social responsibility and sustainability movement for many years. Turns out she also has a secret aptitude for fiction.

That could be a rather sarcastic start to a review of her new book CSR for HR. Except that this is an overt work of fiction, and a rather jolly one at that. We follow the story of Sharon, a fictional HR director who sets out on a journey of CSR discovery. This is a fantastic ploy to entertain the knowledgeable, while filling in the gaps for the new entrants to CSR.

Sharon delves into the definitions of CSR, learns from the real-life achievements of Body Shop, Gap, Nike, Microsoft, Ben and Jerry’s, Google and energy company Vattenfall. The book is stuffed with mini-articles, models, a road map to get started and interviews between Sharon and real leaders in CSR.

Recruitment, compensation, training, employee communications, employee well-being, health and safety, employee rights, community involvement and environmental impact are all covered. The HR discipline doesn’t trip up Cohen’s argument and she seems as competent in the issues (and frustrations) of HR professionals as I’ve known her to be in CSR.

My favourite chapter is set during a conference that Sharon attends early in her journey. The facilitator (who I suspect is a barely disguised avatar of the author) opens with some provocative questions, such as: “There is no such thing as a work-life balance” and “Would you die to work?” The session is a watershed for Sharon as she begins to realise the huge implications of CSR for age-old HR issues.

One of the conclusions from the conference is that “human resource managers have a responsibility to change the system”. I agree wholeheartedly, but this does highlight my one criticism of this story. Sharon the HR director does all the learning, and not much HR wisdom passes the other way to CSR. Perhaps the next story could be HR for CSR, following the journey of a CSR director learning what the HR discipline can teach us on sustainability.

Nevertheless, this is a must-read for HR professionals, students and those interested in holistic management. It’s rare to find a business book where you learn as much from the protagonist’s chats with her daughter as from the case studies. Enjoy.

Solitaire Townsend, People Management, 13 January 2011


... a must-read for everybody who either works in the HR function and wants to develop a view on how to support CSR in their daily life, or for everybody outside the HR function looking for arguments why the HR function has an important role to play and needs to overcome some genuine mental stereotypes. ... The nice thing about telling the story in a plot like this is that more or less all arguments that one could run against in this challenging metamorphosis come back in the book, and in that sense it delivers refreshing yet convincing arguments any reader can use from the next day onwards.

Another important point to make about Elaine’s book is that she has interwoven the plot with a lot of ready-made materials (slides, checklists, book summaries and articles) that can be used as blueprints for readers to start their own pilgrimage. In essence, reading Elaine’s book saves the reader a lot of time reading other articles and books.

... Elaine Cohen’s book is the right book at the right moment, written in a very useful way that makes it ‘ready to use’ from day 1 onwards
Ralph Thurm, Director, Deloitte Sustainability & Innovation


Unlike many CSR books out there, CSR for HR is not preaching to the choir. It is intended primarily for HR managers who may have heard of CSR but don't really know what it means in practice, or how it relates to the job they currently have.

Elaine Cohen, currently co-founder and managing consultant of Beyond Business Ltd., has more than 25 years of experience in executive positions at various global companies, including 8 years as an HR executive at Unilever. As a result, she offers a unique insider-perspective that breaks CSR down into real terms. Through her narrative, Cohen shows HR managers how to engage employees, develop corporate culture, and communicate progress through CSR reporting. The story is informative as well as inspiring. As Cohen tells us, “Sharon realizes she doesn't need to sit around and wait for her CEO or executive team to develop a comprehensive CSR strategy for the HR function.” HR managers interact with employees (a key stakeholder group) in innumerable ways. CSR strategy can come from the top down, but for it to really stick, the employees need to be ready for it.

Cohen's book gives HR managers the information and confidence needed to open their companies up to the opportunities that can come from CSR.
Matthew Maguire, CSR International Book Review Digest 3.2 (February 2011)


Cohen does an outstanding job showing the connection between HR and CSR. She shows how HR practices in staffing, training, compensation, job design, and culture creation can be adapted to further CSR work within a company. Her ideas are fresh; her examples are relevant; and her writing is clear. This book will be useful to any company working to advance sustainability, philanthropy, or work/life policies as part of their CSR agenda.
Dave Ulrich, Professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, and Partner, The RBL Group

In CSR for HR, Elaine Cohen has described one of the true ‘secrets of success’ for leading companies in the 21st century. In a clear, compelling and engaging way, she outlines the tremendous role HR professionals can play to advance corporate social responsibility within their companies while enhancing recruiting, retention and engagement.
Dave Stangis, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, Campbell Soup Company

When new or potential employees first connect to our HR departments, we have an opportunity to show them something of the company culture. As a company with a strong CSR commitment, it is important to emphasize how these principles are integrated into all aspects of our company. Elaine Cohen offers compelling ideas for how to make that happen, beginning in HR and radiating out to all functions of the business.
Eileen Fisher, Chief Creative Officer, Eileen Fisher, Inc.

In this book, Elaine Cohen provides the compelling evidence of the positive impacts the Human Resource function can have on an organization’s sustainability performance. More importantly, she provides insight into how the CSR-enlightened HR professional plays a key role in the promotion of organizational leadership and innovation, potentially leading to top-line business performance.
Jeffrey Hogue, Vice President of Corporate Sustainability, Danisco A/S

Finally a hands-on, informative and engaging book on the essential connection between HR and CSR! To quote a quote from the book itself – CSR without HR is PR – and with her typical storytelling flair Elaine proves this point beautifully. It is a call to action for the HR community to take on this agenda for the benefit of their own profession, their companies, and ultimately the planet.
Maria Sillanpää, Founding Director, Sustainability Advisory Group

This book gives HR and CSR professionals permission to be human. In fact, it goes so far as to suggest it might be integral to responsible business success. Get it, read it, share it!
Christine Arena, author of The High-Purpose Company

This book is a wonderful contribution to an important aspect of Corporate Responsibility. I am continually conscious of the need to apply CSR thinking first and foremost within our business, and the way we relate to our employees. Elaine has provided fascinating insights in a way which is easy to understand and reapply in all businesses.
Sybil Goldfiner, CEO, comme il faut

In my view, this book covers an innovative subject and provides a wide range of knowledge and practical examples which can apply in all businesses in all sectors. The book is written in an interesting and pragmatic style. It seems that the author has a good overall view of how businesses work and writes in a language that HR professionals can understand. This is a fascinating book which offers inspiration and a desire to progress the sustainability agenda.
Inbal Cinman, Corporate Responsibility Director, Ness Technologies Inc.

A new corporate consciousness is redefining the way we conduct business, and a company’s HR department must embrace this and lead the change by ensuring that they continue to attract the right talent. Whether you work in HR, talent management, diversity, leadership development, or have any role in business strategy, this book is a must-read!
Aman Singh Das, Editor, Corporate Responsibility, Inc.

Meet Arena Dardelle
Meet Sharon Black

Part I HR: A critical partner for CSR

1. HR meets CSR

This item available in PDF format for free download     Download

2 The CSHR manager and the responsible workplace
3 Employee dialogue and engagement
4 Employee rights
5 Employee reward and recognition
6 Employee well-being, health and safety
7 Recruitment, diversity and inclusion
8 Employee training and development
9 Employee communications
10 Employee involvement in the community
11 Employees and the environment

Part II Embedding CSHR

12 The employee life-cycle
13 Employee impacts
14 Ethics
15 Leadership

Part III The CSHR infrastructure

16 HR stakeholders
17 The CSHR job description
18 The HR CSR roadmap
19 CSHR: A critical business partner

Appendix: companies referenced

Elaine Cohen is passionate about CSR, HR, sustainability reporting, social justice and ice cream! She is the co-founder and managing consultant of Beyond Business Ltd , a leading CSR consulting and sustainability reporting firm, serving a long list of international companies and non-profit clients. Prior to work in this field, Elaine gained over 20 years of business experience with Procter & Gamble (eight years in supply chain executive roles in Europe), with Unilever (eight years as VP for Human Resources with Unilever Israel) and a range of other roles with smaller companies. Elaine served as Manager of the Israeli Society for Human Resources Management during the period 2005–2007. Elaine makes a contribution to the community as a Board Member of a women’s empowerment non-profit and by offering sustainability services to non-profits. Elaine lectures widely on CSR and the connection between CSR and human resources, is a committed blogger on sustainability reporting via her blog, provides Expert Reviews of sustainability reports for and Ethical Corporation Magazine, writes editorials and book reviews for, records CSR commentary and insights for 3BL TV and writes for many printed journals and websites. She is a frequent Tweeter on CSR issues at @elainecohen. Elaine holds a (double) Honours BA Degree in Modern Languages from Bradford University, is Manchester (UK) born and has lived in Israel since 1990. She is married with two children. Oh, and she is addicted to ice cream!