How Does HR Fit into Sustainability?
If you work in Human Resources, you may not have spent a lot of time thinking about sustainability. It is someone else’s responsibility, right? Wrong. Ellen Weinreb recently wrote that being an ‘employer of choice’ is synonymous with sustainability. She believes that the HR team plays a critical role in forming “green teams” and encouraging employee engagement on environmental and other sustainability issues.
In his piece on the role that HR plays in sustainability strategy, John McGuire outlines a few starting points for strengthening the relationship between HR and sustainability. For example, McGuire notes that an HR professional must help to embed and operationalize a sustainable strategy into the workplace culture. This can mean a number of things such as providing trainings and development sessions to get team members to understand and invest in green changes; offering incentives and recognition for sustainability achievements; setting policies that encourage employee cooperation and involvement with the company’s environmental objectives — the list goes on. But a stumbling block for some HR employees — and other members of your company — can be a lack of understanding when it comes to the term sustainability.
Steve Wilkins, HR manager for FedEx Express, believes that “sustainability” is an overused and hard to define word, making implementing a sustainability strategy challenging. Wilkins does have some tips to help your HR department get past this hurdle when it comes to getting a sustainability strategy up and running. There are three key areas that he finds vital to the process — communications, education and motivation.
Communications is a huge factor in any office — whether in person or via email. Wilkins suggests connecting with the employees via an internal newsletter that highlights eco-achievements as well as setting up volunteer opportunities and encouraging small green changes like turning off unused lights. By highlighting your company’s commitment to innovative changes, you can show your team that you are focused on creating a positive impact on the workforce.
Clearly no one can be on board with a strategy they don’t understand, so you have to make sure you educate the members of your team about the impact your company has on the environment. And about the ways you want to reduce that impact and how they can be a part of it. A sense of common purpose will help keep your team committed and lead to a productive and empowered staff.
Susan Winterberg wrote earlier this year about how the highest-ranking factor of what makes a corporation just is providing employees with a good job. One of the central factors to making that happen is aligning a company’s values, commitments and actions. An increase in internal collaboration will greatly improve sustainable efforts, staff involvement in the process and commitment from your company to making green changes.
And as McGuire noted motivation is key so providing rewards, recognition and responsibilities to your employees can help them feel even more invested in the sustainability process. Remember, sustainability strategy is not a PR opportunity, but is something that needs to be incorporated into a business's overarching objectives. All organizations should be accountable for their actions and work to integrate environmental practices into everyday business life.