Implementing CSR within HR: beyond the social aspect

How to implement sustainable and responsible HR practices to make CSR fully operational within the HR function? While the social/societal aspect of CSR seems closely related to HR, what about the environment, for example? What are the HR themes related to CSR? And to what extent should HR be involved in CSR matters? This is what we will explore in this article.

How to integrate CSR into the HR function

How to establish sustainable and responsible HR practices for the full integration of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) within human resource management?

While the connection between CSR and the social/societal aspect appears evident in the HR field, what about its impact on the environment? What HR themes align with CSR principles? To what extent should HR commit to CSR issues?

These questions will be at the heart of our exploration in this article.

Author of the article



Senior Manager HR Council and Digital Transformation – CSR Referent

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Digital revolution & CSR: similar transformations

HR and CSR: the social/societal dimension

HR and CSR: the ethical dimension


HR & CSR: the environment dimension


HR & CSR: responsible procurement



Digital revolution & CSR: similar transformations

We have long been focused on the digital revolution. Initiated several years ago, it continues its exponential progression with the development of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI)

However, in our rapidly changing context, it is essential to remain attentive to all signals that can bring about transformation, even disruption. It seems particularly important for us to address the climate revolution and its societal impacts. Indeed, in the coming years, climate will become one of the primary concerns for executives, including HR directors.

A number of companies are already engaged in the Global Compact to work towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a target set for 2030.

Similar to the digital transformation that has permeated various roles within organizations, sustainability (CSR) will have to undergo a similar integration into job functions in the coming years to become fully operational. Thus, we should all possess sustainability skills regardless of our job. This is referred to as the “greening of jobs.”

Furthermore, we are beginning to see the emergence of “ESG by design” initiatives to rethink the CSR aspect in each function of the company, whether within business entities or support functions.

This should impact the HR function first and foremost because it is also responsible for supporting the company’s transformations and their impact on skills management. When we look at the core principles of CSR, we can identify four main areas to cover: social/societal, environmental, ethical, and responsible procurement.

In this context, we propose to examine the impact of these various CSR aspects on the HR function.


HR and CSR: the social/societal dimension

The social/societal aspect is so closely linked to HR that one might even wonder where the boundary lies between what belongs to HR strategy and CSR. Indeed, when consulting sustainability or non-financial development reports, a large number of indicators come from the HR function. There is inevitably a degree of porosity between these two functions within the organization.

Historically, it encompasses everything related to employability (training employees, ensuring decent compensation) and the right to union representation. In France, these subjects are highly regulated by labor laws or industry regulations, allowing them to be directly integrated into HR practices.

Subsequently, diversity and inclusion issues have emerged: gender equality, disability, social and cultural backgrounds, age, and sexual orientation/gender identity. This is a theme that has been developed in companies for several years due to legislation that has defined boundaries and constraints. As a result, many roles dedicated to Diversity and Inclusion have appeared within the HR function to launch equity initiatives (e.g., coaching/mentoring for women, hiring profiles transitioning careers).

It’s interesting to move beyond a regulatory approach and address this topic with the belief that diversity is a strength within the company. Indeed, it enables the collective to be more resilient and creative in the face of transformations. Diversity can be seen in all its forms, including cognitive diversity (different communication styles, learning approaches) and professional diversity (cross-functional teams). This helps develop a competency-based approach, which naturally brings positive diversity in addition to potential mitigations for negative biases.

Lastly, the subject of well-being at work is also directly addressed by HR: care-based management, mental health prevention, absenteeism monitoring, and benefits to enhance quality of life. This topic has certainly gained the most prominence in recent years. Following the COVID crisis and the widespread adoption of remote work, new expectations for work-life balance have emerged. People want to slow down, move away from the production-driven pace. The emergence of the 4-day workweek in some companies is one concrete example.

Other topics are further from HR, such as philanthropy and sharing with associations. However, connections can be made. We see certain practices like employee skills-based philanthropy through online platforms like Vendredi or Wenabi.


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HR and CSR: the ethical dimension

Corporate ethics aim to ensure the application of principles in business conduct. This affects the company itself, as well as the individual behaviors of its employees and its partners. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), in its cross-cutting nature, involves issues related to corporate ethics. Themes such as respect for human rights or data security can be found among them. Depending on the size of the company, you may find roles or departments dedicated to “Compliance” responsible for these issues.

The fact that ethics directly impact employees necessitates HR’s involvement alongside Compliance teams. Beyond defining a responsibility approach through codes of conduct, it’s important to ensure their proper implementation through change management actions:

  • Ensure the inclusion of ethical behaviors in HR and managerial practices through training.
  • Raise awareness among employees by sharing examples of inappropriate behavior and good conduct.
  • Foster open communication through collective expression sessions for employees (“Speak up”), mechanisms for sharing questions with the CEO, anonymous surveys, etc.
  • Audit, reward, and sanction employee behavior.

Additionally, we can observe societal changes that impact organizational modes and behaviors within organizations. Phrases like “self-managed companies” or “participatory governance” are increasingly heard, challenging the traditional hierarchical organization. This could alter the established rules of conduct within a company.

HR & CSR: the environment dimension

We are beginning to delve into topics that may seem the furthest from HR. Why should HR be concerned about the environment? I had the opportunity to participate in the “Ecological transition, the HR challenge of the century?” conference organized in April 2023 by Le Lab RH, PageGroup, Axa Climate, and Groupe Renault. It gave me some insights into the role of HR in environmental matters.

What I took away from it is that HR should be at the forefront of this issue in order to:

  • Anticipate and support competence-related transformation projects linked to the ecological transition that will impact all professions through training for “green” jobs and the recruitment of “green talents”.
  • Manage organizational challenges and working conditions associated with environmental management: carbon footprint of collaboration methods and their social impact (choosing to work remotely or travel to foreign sites), impact of climate change on external workers.
  • Provide meaning, engage and mobilize employees regarding actions against climate change, which are increasingly expected by both employees and candidates. With the latter, this can involve presenting the CSR approach in job descriptions and during interviews.

We can also add the need to measure the potential environmental impact of your HRIS solutions to address your digital sobriety challenges.


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HR & CSR: responsible procurement

Let’s conclude with a topic that is arguably the most “non-HR”: responsible procurement and the global value chain. Indeed, the fairly strict regulations in France encourage HR to focus on internal staff (permanent and temporary) and to provide relatively differentiated treatment for anyone with an external contract (to avoid the risk of reclassification as a permanent employee). However, external teams sometimes represent a significant volume.

Following the Duty of Vigilance law, companies with more than 5,000 employees are now required to monitor their suppliers and ensure compliance with their practices (particularly concerning respect for human rights). Beyond supplier management, there is a shift in labor with the rise of freelancing.

According to a report by Le Lab RH, Malt, and Mazars, the number of freelancers in France is expected to reach 1.5 million by 2030. Given the difficulty in recruiting and retaining talent, the development of freelancing is relevant to HR strategy, which would be based on a competency-based approach. However, outside of temporary staff, external resources are still mainly managed by purchasing departments, rather than HR. Including contractual staff would fit into an “Open Talents” HR strategy in an extended enterprise that takes into account all its stakeholders, according to Sociétal review.

Conclusion on the implementation of CSR within HR

We have thus seen the importance of sustainability and CSR issues for HR beyond the social aspect in order to integrate responsible HR practices operationally. This requires HR teams to develop their CSR skills, review their processes, and redefine new boundaries in terms of governance with the CSR department, while breaking potential silos between departments.

At SQORUS, we are committed to positively supporting today’s and tomorrow’s transformations. Leveraging our experience in HR digital transformations, we have developed a methodology to help you implement your CSR transformation within the HR function in order to develop a responsible and sustainable approach:

  • Review all your HR processes to make them ESG by design, covering all aspects of CSR.
  • Define and deploy effective governance and a strong partnership between the CSR and HR departments.
  • Train your teams on CSR issues applied to the HR function.
  • Manage change among your managers and employees.

If you are interested in CSR transformation applied to HR, please don’t hesitate to contact us here to discuss further.

This article is part of a series of articles dedicated to HR innovation, which represents the result of research, analysis, and reflection by the teams at LAB SQORUS.

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