Employment should be the focus of CSR - Business Works
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Employment should be the focus of CSR

Millie Banerjee, Chairman, Working Links More than 80% of British bosses say they have a duty to help socially disadvantaged people but only a handful are taking up the challenge.

Employers are now being urged to turn duty into action on the back of a new report by employment specialist Working Links, which recently surveyed HR and CSR managers.

In The Responsible Employer they found that UK businesses overwhelmingly consider it their duty to help the UK address both economic (90%) and societal challenges (81%). And while 76% of employers consider 'environment and sustainability' as their top CSR priorities, only 12% say that 'recruiting from disadvantaged groups' is their main priority.

The report identifies barriers that prevent companies from actively recruiting from disadvantaged groups. First, some 70% of employers fear that they would have difficulty finding people with the right skills. Perhaps more worrying, over a third (35%) of employers say they find it difficult to make vacancy appeals targeting people from disadvantaged groups.

The work large employers Tesco and Morrisons is also highlighted in the report for making strides to address these challenges. In 2011, Tesco recruited 667 long-term unemployed people as part of its UK Regeneration Partnerships and also supported 2000 apprentices. In 2011-12, Morrisons aims to give up to 10% of its new jobs to vulnerable people.

A number of companies are also already working with welfare to work providers like Working Links, helping disadvantaged people into employment. South Wales company Tom Prichard Contracting took on a dozen long-term unemployed people earlier this year. Kevin Dean, Business Development Manager at Tom Prichard Contracting, said, "Its all about creating sustainable work opportunities so not only do people find work after a long layoff, but can maintain that employment. There are a lot of good, skilled people out there looking for jobs and its great to be giving them a chance to shine."

Currently, there are more than 900,000 long-term unemployed people in the UK and the number of young people aged 16-24 out of work is at a record high.

"At least part of the solution to economic recovery is to translate these massive welfare costs into tax income and GDP contribution simply put, to help get people into jobs," said Millie Banerjee, Chairman of Working Links. "We deliver our flagship Work Programme across the UK and it has helped almost a quarter of a million people into work since 2000. We believe that employers hold the key to proactively addressing unemployment among disadvantaged groups and encourage employers to turn their CSR agendas away from 'green' initiatives to employability programmes."

The smartest businesses know that acting responsibly is critical to their reputation. Some 64% of employers have increased spending on CSR in the last five years, compared to 6% who have seen CSR budgets fall.

However, it is proving harder for companies to stand out against their competitors by virtue of their environmental credentials. Of the employers it surveyed, 84% were already engaged in some form of 'green' CSR activity. Customers now fully expect businesses to demonstrate their respect for the environment.

"Customers expect companies to be 'green' but employability as a component of their CSR agenda has the ability to make an immediate difference in the communities in which businesses operate and differentiate competitors," continued Millie.

"Businesses must not underestimate the power of initiatives that help people into work. The pleasure people get from helping someone change their life is enormous and this translates into building a motivated, loyal workforce."

"Helping people from disadvantaged groups into work is not only the right thing to do, it also enhances customers and employees perceptions of a business. Employees value working for a responsible employer and customers reward such employers through their share of spend."

Norman Pickervance, chair of the social enterprise Create and former head of CR for Morrisons, gave a keynote address at the launch of The Responsible Employer. Speaking at the event in the House of Lords he said, "This is a timely report I share the ambition for more employers to engage in recruitment policies which target the disadvantaged, including the long-term unemployed. Incorporating employment policies which address social exclusion should not be the preserve of a few national employers."

He continued, "I know from my time at Morrisons that there are real commercial benefits in working closely with the communities in which you do business to help local people into work. Our staff and our customers see the real value in helping disadvantaged people to get back on track I hope this call to action will see more businesses embracing similar initiatives as part of their wider CR activity."

As a result of its research, Working Links is calling on employers to adopt a series of recommendations:

  • Update CSR strategies to include recruitment and training programmes that help people from disadvantaged groups into work.
  • Update HR strategies to embed employability aimed at people from disadvantaged groups into recruitment and training programmes.
  • Consider a supply chain review to what extent do the businesses suppliers invest in helping people from disadvantaged groups into work? and
  • Where businesses operate employability as CSR, encourage their industry peers and suppliers to follow suit and actively recruit people from disadvantaged groups.

To download the report and for more information about Working Links, please visit: www.workinglinks.co.uk

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