What CSR training will your employees need?

Do you want to train your employees in CSR issues? Find out which training courses are most suited to their needs in this article. 🌱


Today, no company can exist without sustainable development and CSR, as these issues are now essential for all businesses concerned about sustainability. Everyone knows that making a profit is no longer enough, companies must now also have a purpose, whether social and/or environmental. However, while adhering to such a principle is one thing, disseminating the concept organically throughout the company is another. The key to achieving this goal is to train your employees in CSR issues.

What’s more, setting up a specialised department, appointing managers and producing a CSR report is far from adequate. It is only by raising awareness of employees that a CSR policy can really be implemented on a large scale throughout the organisation, and this includes everyone from top management to the human resources department, as well as all the company’s stakeholders, from employees to partners.

From the embodiment of the company's values to the strength of the proposal, we explain why employee training in sustainable development (SD) issues is crucial to the application of an effective CSR policy.

Why train your employees in CSR? 🌱

Although CSR issues are becoming increasingly mainstream in society, many organisations have still not begun planning the CSR actions they could potentially take.

Nevertheless, since the 2019 PACTE Law (Action Plan for Business Growth and Transformation) was adopted in France, all organisations must rethink their role in society. Unfortunately, not all companies are alike when it comes to CSR, simply because their employees do not always know what is actually involved in implementing a sustainable development policy.

Lack of knowledge of CSR issues within the company

The majority of French people still do not know what CSR is (according to an Ifop survey published in 2019). This worrying fact was confirmed by a study conducted by the Observatoire Salarié et Entreprise Responsable in January 2020, which demonstrated that 39% of employees lacked knowledge of the subject in-house, thus hindering the adoption of CSR-related practices. What’s more, almost half of employees struggle to give a precise definition of CSR! Many employees are simply left out of initiatives: only 8% of employees are asked to integrate CSR into their business activity.

(However, on a more positive note: 70% of employees would like to be more involved! Phew, that’s a relief!) 🙂

In light of this situation, it could be deduced that few employees have a clear vision of how the CSR strategy is being implemented within their company and the way it is being applied within the various departments. Alternatively, perhaps they actually read the CSR report one day, and it was a rather technical and dry document, predominantly aimed at shareholders. 📈

You may have produced a newsletter to inform your employees about your CSR policy but it is unlikely that they will take the ideas on board in this way! A Bananatag study conducted at the end of 2017 reported that while 79% of newsletters are opened, very few are read to the end, and when they are, it is often in a superficial manner (on average, only 15% of links are clicked on).

Clearly you cannot rely solely on the CSR report, particularly when it is relegated to a far corner of your website, or your internal newsletter, in order to communicate with your employees about such an important subject.

It is difficult for employees to feel involved when they do not know much about a project or fully understand it. And in this context, it is even harder for staff members to view themselves as agents of change. Numerous studies have shown that 9 out of 10 companies deviate from their objectives for the simple reason that employees do not feel committed to the issue. Without their support, your plans will come to nothing, because it is your employees who, on a daily basis, will transform the objectives defined by the CSR department and decision-makers into concrete actions.

The best way to overcome this obstacle and to ensure that employees are involved is through training.

Implementing a successful CSR strategy requires training

Let's start with the basics: what is CSR training?

✅ Definition: a set of tools to help employees fully understand the nature of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and to provide them with the knowledge and skills to participate in their company’s transformation and to incorporate SD issues into their work.

With this as a starting point, what does training employees mean, and how should you go about it?  There are a number of ways of doing this, and it is up to you to decide which one is best suited to the maturity level of your organisation.

It may be a matter of explaining the theoretical aspects of CSR to employees through a conference or workshop, or of hiring a consultant or training organisation to set up general training based on four key focus areas:

  • Social issues: workplace safety, employee well-being, promotion of gender equality, ethnic and cultural diversity, introduction of an employee profit-sharing plan, development of an employee savings scheme, etc.

💡Note: it is recommended to introduce this first aspect of CSR as part of a general training course, as it will immediately help employees to see the personal gains that can be derived from their participation in a CSR approach. This first key area can therefore serve as an entry point to issues at the macro level.

  • Environmental issues: independence from fossil fuels, performance of a carbon assessment, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, raw material extraction and water consumption, saving of energy, etc.
  • Economic issues: promotion of a responsible purchasing policy, respect for business ethics and professional standards, etc
  • Financial issues: not implementing an aggressive tax optimisation or evasion policy, etc.

💡Added bonus: this training will provide employees with a more holistic view of their company and a better understanding of how the various departments fit together!

You can also offer more specialised training, aimed at a more experienced audience to give them a deeper understanding of their company's specific CSR strategy.

This type of training can cover various important topics by addressing a few key issues in the most transparent way possible:

  • What are the priority economic, financial, societal and environmental issues in relation to the company’s aims and the expectations of its main stakeholders? (In other words, what conclusions were drawn from the company's materiality matrix?).
  • What actions should be put in place to address these issues?
  • What will this involve for employees at the individual, team and department level?
  • Is it possible to become a CSR ambassador?

NB: this last point is crucial to ensure that the CSR policy is adopted at all levels throughout the company. The CSR ambassadors (or key contacts) serve as the linchpin of the CSR approach and transform it from theory into reality. They implement the CSR action plan in their departments on an operational level, enlist the support of the CSR department where necessary, and monitor CSR actions by applying indicators.

In short, training is an essential tool, not only to disseminate the values of your CSR culture, but also to identify the key links and allies in your specialised department.

Training: a tool for employee commitment

Commitment and motivation are the main benefits cited by employees when talking about company training.

👉The figures leave no room for doubt: 93% of employees (Empowill study) who attend training courses within their company consider that it will have a major impact on their long-term commitment.

Furthermore, according to the same study, employees believe that their company’s overall commitment is much stronger when the training is based on a central theme (which is fortunate, as CSR must permeate the entire company and be applied across all departments) and relevant (which is also fortuitous, as CSR is THE subject of the moment, having been further highlighted by the health crisis).

Since training is a vehicle for commitment, it is logical to make it an integral part of the process, especially as it may be possible to obtain funding for it (see below).

How to find a CSR training course resulting in certification

Today, higher education institutions offer various initial training courses on CSR, ranging from bachelor's degrees to master's degrees and even MBAs. However, there are other ways of obtaining a CSR training certificate.

CSR programmes via distance learning

You don’t necessarily need to go back to school to learn about CSR, it can also be studied via distance learning, and organised through your company!

There are many online organisations which offer different types of training:

  • CSR-specific training courses aimed at providing professional Social Responsibility skills
  • Targeted training on certain aspects or tools relating to the CSR strategy: development of a strategy, reporting, etc.
  • Specific training courses for CSR professionals aimed at broadening their knowledge of certain aspects relating to their professional practice
  • General training courses aimed at raising awareness and familiarising company employees with CSR issues
  • Training aimed at developing CSR skills specific to a particular profession

In addition, more specialised training courses aim to train employees to incorporate CSR issues into their job roles, in particular, engineering courses based on eco-design, or marketing courses that incorporate sustainable marketing issues.

ISO 26000 training

From the many CSR training courses available via online or classroom learning, ISO 26000 training is among the most popular. This type of training gives learners a better understanding of the principles of this standard.

As a reminder, ISO 26 000 is an internationally-recognised standard defined by ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation), which is responsible for establishing international standards covering various fields and sectors such as CSR and, of course, GHG emissions. The ISO 26000 standard sets out guidelines for all types of organisations to adopt a CSR approach. It thus provides a summary of the issues that all companies must take into consideration: preservation of the environment, protection of employees, business ethics and respect for human rights, etc.

HEC training

One of the best training courses is the HEC Paris CSR course, designed for “current aspiring changemakers”. The famous business school promises that by the end of the course, learners will have acquired “the critical thinking, technical and leadership skills necessary to rethink, innovate and shape tomorrow’s sustainable businesses and inclusive economies.”

To summarise, it is a very comprehensive programme.  

How to obtain financing for your CSR training course

In companies, it is possible to obtain financing for CSR training, and there are several ways of doing so available to employees.

Personal training account

The first way is via the personal training account (CPF, formerly Dif, meaning an individual’s right to training). Employees can use this account throughout their working lives (even when unemployed!) to gain access to training that leads to qualifications or certification.

To do so, the employee must log on to my training account to create a request and find out the amount of their CPF entitlement. CPF credit can be added by the employee themselves or the company.

💡NB: Use of the CPF can only be initiated by the employee, the employer cannot impose such use to finance the training of their choice.

Skills development plan

The skills development plan is a document that contains all the training actions selected by the employer for their employees.

It is based on the training needs expressed by employees during their annual appraisal, and applies to all staff members in companies with fewer than 50 employees.

To apply this method, the employee must inform the employer of their intention during their annual appraisal, and then put together a file in collaboration with the HR department in order to obtain financing via their OPCO (Opérateur de Compétences - State-approved training body). Its mission: to finance training, to help sectors develop professional certifications, and to support SMEs in defining their training needs.

🚀 For more information:

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