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SIOP Annual Conference Theme Track: Corporate Social Responsibility

by Stephany Schings, Communications Specialist 

The measure of a good company may have traditionally been its revenue or stock price, but more and more companies today are being judged by what they give as opposed to what they bring in.
“Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR), the topic of the 2009 Annual Conference Saturday Theme Track, is becoming an important practice to companies today, said SIOP member Sara Weiner, Saturday Theme Track Committee chair for the Annual Conference and a global program director at Kenexa, a provider of talent acquisition and retention solutions.
The Theme Track will take place Saturday, April 4, 2009. In addition to Weiner, the Theme Track committee includes Peter Bachiochi, Alessia D’Amato, Stephen Dwight, Michele Ehler, Adam Grant, John Howes, Deborah Rupp, and Daniel Turban.
A full day of cohesive programming on corporate social responsibility, the Saturday Theme Track has been designed by a specially appointed committee as a “conference within a conference” to appeal to both academics and practitioners and reflect a cutting-edge topic or trend. The theme track will highlight the role that I-O psychologists can play in driving CSR within global, multinational, and single-nation organizations. 
Keynote speaker Ingar Skaug, Group CEO Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA and Chairman of the Board for the Center for Creative Leadership, will set the stage by covering the following areas: interweaving CSR/sustainability into the fabric of the business: the corporation’s angle; CSR/sustainability as a driver for innovation and opportunities: beyond legal requirements; strategic planning and CSR/sustainability.
Other presentations during this Theme Track include:
· Speaker Cynthia Williams, Professor, University of Illinois College of Law, who will be speaking on “The CSR Trend in Global Business: Global Banks as Global Regulators”
· A panel discussion entitled “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Work: Examples of CSR Practices in Organizational Settings;” with panelists from IBM, Nike, Starbucks, Sun Microsystems, and Target
· Symposiums entitled “Leadership for CSR/Sustainability: A Global Perspective and “Behavioral Ethics: Linking Managerial Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility”
· Several paper presentations and poster sessions
· Research incubator entitled “The Science and Practice of CSR: What I-O Psychologists Can Contribute”
Theme Track Chair Sara Weiner said the topic of  responsibility of organizations to their communities, society, and the environment, has become increasingly important to employees over the last few years and is now a way for companies to retain valuable workers.
“People have always been caring about the communities in which they live, and some corporations have also demonstrated commitment to the communities in which they operate," she said. "Now it is more of a business requirement for organizations to be seen as a responsible citizen in the community as well as one that tries to reduce its environmental footprint where possible.  We’re finding that these actions do indeed affect how people feel about their company and about working there.”
Weiner noted research conducted by the Kenexa Research Institute (KRI) last year that evaluated workers’ perceptions of their organizations with regard to corporate social responsibility.
The report was based on the analysis of data drawn from workers from Brazil, China, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States surveyed in 2007 through KRI's annual survey of worker opinions.
Among the six surveyed countries, the research indicated that “working for an organization where employees positively view CSR efforts has a significant, favorable impact on how they rate their pride in the organization, willingness to recommend it as a place to work and overall satisfaction.” Furthermore, the report continues, “those employees with favorable opinions of their organizations’ CSR activities are more likely to say they intend to stay relative to those who have unfavorable opinions of their organizations’ CSR efforts.”
Weiner said CSR helps companies’ bottom lines in that it helps them attract and retain the best employees.
“It’s nice to do, but it’s really becoming a business imperative as far as its impact on employee attraction and retention goes,” she said.
Weiner said I-O’s can play a major role in the area of CSR, such as action planning, embedding corporate social responsibility into a business plan, measuring its impact, and keeping data on attraction and retention factors, one of which is corporate responsibility.
There are several ways companies are working to become socially responsible, Weiner said. Some avenues for CSR include “green” initiatives, community involvement, and disaster relief such as helping after Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters.
“Natural disasters such as the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina have really raised people’s awareness of what companies can do to alleviate pain and suffering, and what a positive impact companies can have on society,” she added.

The Thursday Theme Track for the Annual Conference will be “I-O Psychologists as Leading Edge in Evidence-Based Management.” Check back to the SIOP Web site for more information on this exciting theme!