5 Ways HR Supports Sustainability Efforts

4 minutes read
By Sinakho Dhlamini, HR Content Specialist, Top Employers Institute
Sinakho Dhlamini
Content Marketing Specialist

Sustainability has often been relegated to being an individual issue that can be addressed slowly, but as the reality of the climate situation comes to light many organisations are creating systematic plans to help in the effort to slow down climate change. In fact, 94% of Certified Top Employers have policies that are committing them to social and environmental performance. While these policies vary between organisations, especially as many will focus on their local environment, it is encouraging to see that this commitment to sustainability is shared by large and small businesses.

A commitment to sustainability is not only good for the environment but it also has a positive effect on employees working in the organisation, as many prioritise thinking not only for their personal future but the future of the environment. The improved employee morale extends into how they feel at work, especially as they will feel as though they have a company that respects and champions their values around sustainability. Employees that feel represented in their organisation’s values are more likely to feel a sense of pride for where they work. Additionally, that can aid in increasing the organisation’s employer branding and brand recognition that can help to retain top talent while also showcasing a brand that cares about the future to possible new recruits.

Organisations should see these positives to embracing sustainable practices and policies as a motivating factor to begin working strategically with HR. They need to keep in mind that employees and potential employees can distinguish between authentic and inauthentic efforts. Engaging HR and employees successfully can add to the authenticity of the strategic implementation of sustainable practices.

Human resources professionals and leaders should play a significant role in creating and implementing these sustainability strategies for their organisation. This is a role that we looked at in an article that explored the role that HR plays in sustainability. It is noted by several HR leaders that their role is especially important because it integrates the sustainable practices and values that the organisation shares by integrating it into their strategic framework in a manner that embraces the initiative of employees and leaders across the organisation.

Five Ways HR Supports Sustainability Efforts:


Make Sustainability a Part of Company Culture

The social purpose of an organisation is not only the work of HR leadership to define, but the purpose of an organisation is also defined by the organisation’s leadership team in conversation with employees, but HR does take a major role in setting this purpose. HR teams can work to integrate sustainability into their company culture by integrating it across their work. Whether that is recruiting talent that is a cultural fit in terms of sustainability or creating their company’s code of conduct around their sustainable policies. There are a number of ways that HR teams can embed sustainability into their company culture.

Involving Employees in Implementing Sustainable Practices

Educating employees about the initiatives around sustainability is one of the primary ways that HR teams can drive engagement in the organisation about the sustainability efforts the organisation is currently working on. It can easily be forgotten by those working on the sustainable policies in the organisation that not every employee is aware of what they are doing and how they can assist in these initiatives. Our research in the World of Work Trends Report 2022 showed that empowering employees to take an active role in the organisational change happening at their business is not only beneficial for the company but also an expectation that many new and existing employees have. HR can assist the sustainability efforts of their organisation by informing and involving employees in their work.

Implementing a Compensation and Reward System

Financial and nonfinancial compensation has been used as a tool by businesses to motivate employees to do tasks alongside their everyday work tasks. HR could use rewards and compensation to support involvement in an organisation’s environmental activities. That is because when employees know that they will be rewarded for their efforts it gives them additional motivation to participate in eco-friendly causes.

Training and Development

While an organisation’s sustainability efforts will vary from company to company there are some sustainable actions that can be taken by employees at work. HR can step in to promote green behaviour in the office by training and developing employees’ knowledge of sustainable actions they can do at work with the resources available.

HR could also guide employees through the sustainability concepts at the workplace using a step-by-step process so that employees feel empowered to act sustainably where they can. They can also communicate the green HR goals that are related to in the office behaviour to create a sense of excitement and ownership for employees.

Embed Sustainability Projects in CSR and ESG Projects

While corporate social responsibility programmes and environmental, social, and governance projects are not the same thing both projects can focus on sustainability goals. It is common for organisations to support several charitable initiatives throughout the year that align with their values. As many organisations engage with sustainable efforts as a part of their organisation it makes sense for HR departments to add a sustainability angle to their CSR and ESG projects.

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5 Ways HR Supports Sustainability Efforts

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