The relationships between sustainability and human resources is an intangible one. For the HR professional, being an “employer of choice” is synonymous with sustainability. After all, one of the main tenets of sustainability is maximizing the positive benefits of a business’ operations for all stakeholders.
For sustainability professionals, the HR team primarily represents employees as a stakeholder group, playing a critical part in forming “green teams” and encouraging employee engagement on environmental and other issues.
The potential of the sustainability-HR connection comes from the HR professionals who sit on their companies’ sustainability steering committees. HR representatives are deeply involved in the development of the workplace component of the company’s sustainability report and are responsible for collecting the data necessary for meeting reporting standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative. The HR group also guides goals directly related to their function, such as employee turnover, workplace safety, and employee satisfaction.
Five examples of how sustainability intersects with the human resource function
- Training: Incorporating sustainability education in its employee training process, which encourages employee engagement in sustainability at home and supports sustainablity.
- Engagement: HR plays a key role in involving employees in workplace initiatives such as recycling, energy efficiency, and reducing waste.
- Employee Communications: HR facilitates discussions between departments and hierarchies, thereby becoming the buffer for potential friction by promoting the formation of committees or informal groups that look for ways to improve company sustainability. HR also communicates frequently to the entire employees.
- Sustainability-focused Volunteering: Volunteer initiatives like tree plantings and support for humanitarian relief logistics are a highly encouraged (and measured) category.
- Reducing Waste in the Talent Acquisition process: Eliminating all paper from its talent acquisition process, including pamphlets, brochures, forms, company information, reports, etc., and the hiring process is entirely electronic.
Veteran HR executives think HR plays a critical role in its sustainability efforts. Involving employees can have ripple effects given the impact of their work and their multiple daily interactions with internal and external stakeholders. Their work and interactions have the potential to advance an organization’s sustainability goals.
Of course, the intersection of CSR and human resources encompasses alignment of HR goals with that of the sustainability team, incorporating employees as an important stakeholder group and the HR function as a key player in delivering maximum impact.
Integrating sustainability officers into HR means utilizing employees to have a greater effect on society. So what is the difference between being sustainable and being an employer of choice? Being viewed as sustainable means that you may be the first choice, not only for employees but also for customers, suppliers, and partners. This ambitious statement requires not only employees’ buy-in but also their innovation, commitment and diverse ideas. That is where HR professionals can play a significant role.