How HR can become part of the solution.
Climate change is omnipresent, awareness for sustainability is growing and tens of thousands of young people are taking to the streets demanding a change in the system. This introduction is not intended to draw attention to the climate crisis, but to the young people demonstrating - our future workforce.
We are facing a generation which is thinking about the environment, confronting the future and expecting its employers to take responsibility. This is precisely where HR can be proactive: If a company realises this responsibility and initiates measures, on one hand, it becomes part of the solution and, on the other, it establishes an advantage for itself in the job market. Because while some companies find it challenging to find qualified personnel, jobs in non-profit and environmental organisations appear to be more and more popular.
In a study by Ipsos MORI, 74 % of survey participants agreed with the following statement: «If I hear about a contribution a company is making towards society and the environment, I would trust what a person who has worked for that company says more than an advertisement or a brochure»1. According to the same study, 75 % of employees who are convinced that their employer is taking on enough responsibility assess their company commitment as high. By comparison: of the people surveyed who felt their employer did not have a sense of responsibility, 49 % evaluate their commitment as high.
If a company wishes to position itself as sustainable, then the measures should be real and believable on one hand and appreciated and valued by the employees on the other. Therefore, these measures need to be approached strategically and across departments.
In our strategy meetings, we considered docking sites for sustainable measures which can be influenced by HR. We are happy to present some of these here:
Employees can be given an incentive to use sustainable means of transport: train journeys can be considered working time, while flights should be booked as free time. The CO2 emissions from flights can also be compensated on the website www.myclimate.ch.
Employees who travel longer distances to work can be enabled to work from a home office on some days. Employees with shorter commutes to work can be encouraged to travel by bicycle, for example with a Bike to Work Scheme,as has been implemented country-wide in England, or by participating in the Bike to Work action in connection with a bicycle repair service on location.
Providing employees with the opportunity to take part in a project of their choice, for example, with one paid volunteering day per year.
We recommend a balanced mix of measures where the company is both reliant on employee participation and on things the company can implement independently, for example, filling fruit bowls with local products, or providing sustainable and biological cleaning agents and beverages. Ultimately, the topic should not be shifted onto employees, but collaboratively approached.
There are different methods which can be used to motivate employees to participate: employees should certainly be given an explanation of the reasons for the measures. They should have the opportunity to query the measures and/or to participate themselves in making them even better. People only want to participate if they can understand the sense behind taking part.
If there is acceptance for the measures, these can be further encouraged with nudging. For example, if somebody wants to book a flight, a pop-up window can let them know that 80 % of employees use the train for the same journey. This animates the person to do the same as the majority. You can find out more information about Nudging in HR here.
In order to ensure the sustainability strategies do not have a negative effect, we recommend observing the following points when developing measures:
Inspire instead of forbidding or judging: Do not completely ban air travel, rather reward travelling by train.
Avoid cost-saving measures: Do not simply abolish Christmas cards without an alternative under the pretext of sustainability, rather support a climate protection project instead.
Ensure that measures actually are sustainable:
When avoiding paper use, is the additional server space required more sustainable?
Is the energy required to manufacture a reusable cup really compensated through the number of times it is used?
Does it make sense to switch to e-cars, or is it more sustainable to keep using the existing company cars?
Even we are only taking our baby steps where «Green HR» is concerned. However, we believe that it is imperative that HR also deals with the issue of sustainability and the climate crisis in order to do justice to employee requirements. We are excited to hear your thoughts and ideas and look forward to discussions about «Green HR».
Published: 23. April 2020