How Can HR Teams Promote a Culture of Sustainability in the Workplace?

By Lucy Wyndham | September 30, 2020

Human resources teams play a key role in creating and implementing sustainability strategies for companies, as found in a report entitled Advancing Sustainability: HR’s Role by the Society for Human Resource Management. Rather than simply being a ‘feel-good’ or fashionable habit to pursue in offices, sustainability should be part of a company’s strategic framework. HR professionals can play a key role in helping businesses become greener while fostering an environment that values real change. What steps to HR teams need to form a sound and effective sustainability strategy?

Making Sustainability a Part of an Organization’s Strategic Framework

In order to make sustainability an important part of the company’s strategy, HR teams need to establish a formal sustainability policy. This should include specific goals the company as a whole must set out to achieve. The company’s planning processes should be impregnated with ‘green goals.’ For instance, companies in expansion may decide to commit to using recycled materials in all new construction or renovation works. This is a laudable aim because currently, there are 800 billion tons of natural resources consumed by the construction industry. Relying on recycled materials for building can in turn be part of a larger company goal to recycle as many of the materials used on a daily basis by employees.

Getting Executives Involved

The top tier of an organization has to be involved in all major sustainability strategies. HR teams should work alongside CEOs and other major players to establish sustainability goals. Follow-up meetings should be held to present different tactics that can be used to achieve these goals. The latter should be specific and have time limits so that both management and employees can measure the positive impact of their efforts.

Using Sustainability to Attract Top Talent

A company’s track record for sustainability is increasingly becoming a key consideration for younger generations of workers. Research reported by Fast Company, for instance, shows that nearly 40% of millennials (compared to less than 25% of Gen Xers) said they would accept a pay cut to work at an eco-friendly company. HR teams should therefore ensure that their sustainability goals are well communicated to prospective employees.

Making a Difference

HR teams should ensure that their company’s sustainability efforts make an authentic impact in their local communities or at a national or international level. At a community level, this can be achieved by encouraging the entire team to take part in fundraising events, beach or forest clean-ups, recycling campaigns, or indeed any other activity requiring volunteer work. Not all activities need to involve hours of work; even small efforts such as asking employees to print on both sides of paper can help.
HR teams are key to the creation of eco-friendly companies. They are vital when it comes to making sustainability part of a company’s strategic framework, since they can serve as a conduit between management and employees and help establish key goals to be achieved. HR teams should work hard to ensure that eco-friendliness is not over-used in marketing. Rather, sustainability should be a real, measurable goal that management and employees approach in an organized and clear fashion.