Ethics Corporate Social Responsibility - Sustainability Panel Trends Report


About the Special Expertise Panels’ Trends

The lists of key trends each panel produces in its subject area make use of panel members’ insights to uncover a wide range of HR-related trends. These lists assist SHRM in creating forward-looking information and content for our members in forums such as the online HR Focus Areas, research articles, reports and surveys, and through media and outreach efforts. SHRM would like to acknowledge the efforts of each of the members of the Special Expertise Panels.

Disclaimer: The views presented on this report are those of the members of the SHRM Special Expertise Panels and do not necessarily represent the views of SHRM. All content is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as a guaranteed outcome. The Society for Human Resource Management cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions or any liability resulting from the use or misuse of any such information.

Ethics Trends

  1. Organizations continue to struggle with balancing the competing interest of bottom-line results, legal obligations and employee demands when making ethical decisions in all aspects of the employment life cycle.

  2. As organizations accept, recognize and measure the impact and return on investment (ROI) of workplace culture, they will increasingly make business decisions through an ethics- and culture-based frame of reference.

  3. Organizations operating in multinational, cultural and generational environments will need to adapt to manage the tensions within a workforce made up of unique ethical perspectives while remaining compliant with applicable laws, regulations and customs.

  4. Given advances in technology, organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the need to develop technology-based ethics and compliance guidelines (e.g., cyber-security).

  5. Organizations are being asked more frequently to deal with contradictory legal requirements (e.g., guns, drugs, marriage), creating ethical challenges as they attempt to reconcile conflicting laws and cultural norms with organizational culture.

  6. Organizations are increasingly wrestling with ethical decisions related to access, boundaries, privacy and appropriate use of information from social networks for employees both on and off the job, as well as the ethical issues surrounding the organizations' own use of social media.

  7. In areas where no clear legal standard exists (e.g., workplace bullying and other inappropriate workplace behaviors), organizations will increasingly rely upon and expect supervisors to possess ethical competencies to properly address these issues.

  8. Organizations are increasingly aware of how to properly respond to legal accusations, ethical complaints and retaliation claims due to stepped-up government enforcement (e.g., corporate compliance, implementing policies and processes, proper record keeping, and effective internal investigations).

  9. Employers that seek to implement "creative" hiring strategies must ensure these strategies remain compliant, are respectful of a candidate's personal privacy and don't require candidates to perform pre-hire work without compensation.

  10. Increased stakeholder pressure is leading to greater ethical dilemmas for employers and employees alike, requiring organizations to develop deeper awareness of and solutions to address these situations.

Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability Trends

  1. Organizations at every level will realize that corporate social responsibility and sustainability (CSRS) are an essential component of operations, driven by external forces, and will seek to define the term in the context of their business.

  2. Employers will be adopting CSRS initiatives and support employees' participation in these initiatives to compete for and retain top talent.

  3. As stakeholders continue to hold companies accountable for CSRS, employers will need to examine the return on investment for initiatives as well as the role of HR.

  4. Individuals will seek employment and align themselves with organizations that view social responsibility and sustainability as core to company culture, as demonstrated by their adoption of well-being initiatives, corporate citizenship and great place to work programs.

  5. Individuals will continue to volunteer their skills to nonprofit organizations as a way to add a social impact and purpose to their careers.

  6. Driven by social and regulatory pressures, companies will include human rights issues, such as children's rights, whistleblowing and corruption, and transparency on their business agenda.

  7. Competition for employees and customers who value CSRS will require HR to incorporate sustainability and social responsibility considerations into job roles and responsibilities, and into policies and procedures.

  8. Due to economic pressures and increased use of technology, organizations will focus on building CSRS initiatives that can produce scalable solutions and data-rich results.

  9. Organizations will consider cause marketing and reputation branding on traditional and digital media as a way to communicate their CSRS initiatives to stakeholders and the global community at large.

  10. Organizations will use the U.N. Global Compact, international conventions and the global sustainability index to expand their global reach, compete in the global marketplace and evaluate their CSRS initiatives.


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Post a Job


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect