From Human Capital to Social Capital

Published: 21 Feb 2017
Author: Andrew Petersen
Type: Insight

Human Capital – the stock of skills, knowledge, experience and wellbeing possessed by individuals and populations - is a well-accepted concept within business strategy and operations and is recognized as an integral source of value for a company and for an economy.

And business knows that they must ensure they are maximizing every dollar in today’s talent-insatiable cost-constrained employment market to attract, train, motivate and engage employees. At a recent Forum of HR executives, led by FlareHR, business and academic leaders shed light on the challenge and opportunity that many 21st century businesses have in realizing returns on investment in their employees.

At the Forum’s panel session, titled Rebooting Leadership for the 21st Century Follower, two of the speakers - University of Sydney Business School Dean Greg Whitwell and PepsiCo Australia & New Zealand CEO Robbert Rietbroek - explored how the new generation of business HR professionals, as well as CEOs, are addressing the value of Human Capital to a business – balancing the drive for administration efficiency against strategic initiatives, the new realities of corporate scrutiny (both internal and external), potential employee displacement due to the rise of machines in the workplace, and the re-evaluation of ‘leadership’ and ‘followership’ in the 21st century business enterprise.

From Human Capital to Social Capital

But a significant challenge for business is that there is no commonly accepted approach to understand and manage business value creation or destruction of Human Capital as an important asset to not only their business, but to society as a whole, and in so doing increasing the corporate value.

Overseas a number of companies have been sharing and analyzing their internal approaches to the measurement and valuation of employment, skills and safety in a unique enterprise.  Their combined experiences are providing the material to demonstrate how a ‘Social Capital’ Protocol could be implemented for these three subjects. Such a Protocol can also provide a critical part of the evolving business toolkit by bringing together the currently fragmented landscape of social measurement and valuation.

Based on these companies’ input, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is developing the first Social Capital Protocol guidance. This guidance is being developed based on leading practices in the measurement and valuation of 3 subjects core to business - employment, skills and safety – and will be illustrated with tools, insights and company examples in these three areas. The guidance is to be released later in 2017.

Already, the work is motivating companies and stakeholders to seek a better approach to understanding and managing companies’ influence. The work will also enable companies to better understand and drive their contributions to the new Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, it aligns with Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.

In 2017 Sustainable Business Australia, the Australian Network Partner of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), is working to bring Australian business who want to dive into the 3 subjects, engage and generate Australian insights and case studies for input into the Protocol. Contact if your business would like to know more. 

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