The concept of CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibility, has gained significant traction over the past few years, and it’s something that all employees, consumers, and stakeholders increasingly factor into their choices. A large piece of the CSR landscape is sustainability and the green economy. According to Schneider Electric’s first Singapore Green Pulse Survey, 76% of business leaders support efforts to expand the green economy and 78% felt this would benefit businesses in the region. 

What does HR have to do with it? 

When it comes to devising and implementing company-wide sustainability measures, Human Resources departments may not seem like the most obvious place to start. They often don’t even have a seat at the table when it comes to devising sustainability policy. But once you scratch the surface, you realize the department that handles people management and administration within a company actually has many opportunities to make day-to-day business operations greener and more sustainable. From implementing companywide recycling and remote working policies to turning down the office thermostat, HR can play a central role in how green your company can become.  

Here are just a few ways HR can help shape, drive and implement your business’s sustainability practices. 

Make it your mission 

The first thing HR can do is to amend the company’s code of conduct to align it directly with sustainability goals. This could include making sure company goals for things like carbon impact are stated and addressed within this document, a commitment is made to vet all vendors for their eco-friendliness, and programming and incentives are developed that actively encourage staff to align with and engage with sustainability measures. 

The next step is to review all processes and work practices – do they support these wider objectives? Anything that does not should be amended and flagged up to all employees. And as times change, so should policies – sustainability goals and codes of conduct need to be reviewed and updated regularly, and HR should play an active role in this. 

Train green 

Once your sustainability goals and code of conduct are up to date, training employees ensures they know what is expected of them and how to put it into practice. Make sure they’re aware of your sustainability efforts and any benefits or incentives made available to them for helping you achieve these goals. 

Recruit and represent green 

Incorporate sustainability goals into job descriptions, discuss them during interviews, make them part of your onboarding process, and integrate them as a core component of your Employer Brand. Evolving these efforts from goals into pillars of what your company stands for and is known for in the industry, and spreading that message as part of your Employer Brand, will help you draw the interest of highly sought-after candidates who also prioritize these same sustainability goals, not only improving and assisting your candidate recruiting and attraction strategy, but also helping you meet and exceed those green initiatives. 

All of this is a central part of embedding sustainability into your company culture and helps ensure the people you hire understand and embrace both your objectives and the role they play in meeting those objectives. 

Incentivize green 

Consider addressing sustainability goals during performance reviews and offering rewards, not only to motivate employees to be greener but also to bring home the message that working well now means working sustainably. From there, you can introduce ‘sustainability champions’ across all levels of your company in order to engage and motivate employees to go the extra mile and even come up with their own ideas. Among its recent sustainability champions, global tech company Oracle recognized Luke Mann in its Arlington, Virginia office, who succeeded in setting a new, more ambitious goal for Oracle’s employee air travel emissions in 2019. 

Go paperless 

According to recent studies, despite housing just 5% of the world’s population, the US currently consumes around a third of all paper produced – the equivalent of 68 million trees per year! As well as deforestation and lost biodiversity, paper production also releases harmful chemicals into the atmosphere – plus machinery producing paper has its own carbon footprint to consider. There are many reasons to reduce paper use in your company and HR departments can help. Making all training and policy documents available digitally, making hiring procedures electronic, and implementing a global HR cloud system are just three simple examples. 

Raise the temperature 

Setting your office thermostat just three to five degrees higher in the warm weather months than it is now and using fans to enhance air movement and maintain comfort can save about three percent on cooling costs, according to a U.S. Small Business Administration recommendation 

The light bulb moment 

Replace incandescent light bulbs with Energy Star-certified CFL lighting, which lasts about 10 times longer and costs roughly 75 percent less to operate. This is a great, lower effort step to take at the beginning of your sustainability journey that can have transformative effects. 

Clean, green fridges 

Direct Energy recommends cleaning your break room refrigerator’s coils twice a year and, if a dollar bill easily slips out between the door’s seals when you close it, consider installing new gaskets to increase energy efficiency, prolong shelf life, and decrease food waste. 

Lean, green workstations 

When replacing computers, opt for laptops — they consume less than half the energy desktop computers do, according to EnergyAustralia. The oil and gas provider also suggests using monitors that are 2 inches smaller than you currently have could reduce energy consumption by up to 30 percent. 

A greener workforce is a happier workforce 

Green human resource management, in addition to other company sustainability efforts, can have an often unexpected positive effect. Morale has been found to be higher in 55 percent of companies with robust sustainability programs. Studies have also shown companies with greater corporate responsibility performance can reduce average turnover by as much as 50 percent over time, according to an article published in the Harvard Business Review. 

Spread the word 

For that to happen, however, employees have to be aware your organization is investing in sustainability and other CSR efforts. Find out how some companies are managing and communicating aspects of their corporate social responsibility initiative; how focusing on elements that inspire company pride — like an investment in sustainability — can help drive engagement and the effect corporate philanthropy programs can potentially have on retention in some of our previous blog posts. 

Our post on sharing your diversity initiative successes gives examples of channels that can be used to communicate your sustainability practices to employees and other external parties.