How can HR influence sustainability?
PeopleProfitPlanet recently conducted two research projects with Leeds University into attitudes to sustainability (one with FTSE350 companies, one with SMEs). A clear finding from this was that whilst many organisations have taken significant steps in developing their ‘technological’ sustainability, for example installing computer switch off or building management systems, they have yet to fully grasp the opportunities offered by what we call ‘People Driven Sustainability’.
People Driven Sustainability
As HR is now a developed management discipline and many organisations are only just starting to understand sustainability, to be able to exploit People Driven Sustainability, it is absolutely key that an organisation involves the HR department. Your first job will be to help your HR colleagues understand how sustainability can help them in their role of delivering a more effective workforce, and why sustainability is key at delivering broad organisational goals.
At PeopleProfitPlanet we have developed an approach to managing sustainability called the ‘E3Approach’, this stands for Establish+plan > Empower+deliver > Embed+own, and I will use this to outline some of the methods of engagement that HR can provide.
HR professionals are very aware of the famous maxim ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’ and they can offer a key support in delivering a robust sustainability plan. This will enable you to bring some rationality and rigour to choosing the empowerment and embedding tools. For example it is critical to understand the attitudes of management and grass roots staff. In many organisations, HR will already have created ways of doing this through surveys or focus groups. Utilise these to find the information.
There are many tools HR can help deliver to increase your sustainability. A key part of HR’s role in managing an organisations employees are the appraisal mechanisms and targets/KPI’s which are utilised to create carrots and sticks. Work with your HR department to create appropriate targets, for example in energy reduction or increasing webinar use. This could be done on an individual or departmental level.
An excellent method of ensuring that you begin to create ownership of sustainability is by involving your people in the ongoing innovation of this field: leading to what we call ‘Sustainability 2.0’. HR should be well versed in connecting with your staff and gaining ideas from them, so utilise this experience.
The ideas I’ve outlined above are just some of the ways that HR can help you with your sustainability journey, so the message is: don’t delay, set up a meeting with your colleagues in Human Resources!