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The future of work is green — 6 steps HR can follow to drive sustainability

HR’s role in driving sustainability across the entire workforce.

Yessi Bello-Perez

recycling symbol sustainable earth day

Unleash Your Sustainability Here are six easy steps to help HR drive sustainability across the entire organization.

  • Big banking is looking to reduce business travel as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The future of work is looking green — 64% of millennials will turn down a job if the prospective employer fails to have a strong social responsibility agenda.
  • HR’s role in driving sustainability across the entire workforce.

To say that the coronavirus pandemic has turned the world of work upside would be an understatement. 

Organizations the world over have seemingly adapted to remote working, and with many now looking to establish a hybrid working model, the future has never looked, well, greener. 

According to the Financial Times, UK and European banks are planning to significantly reduce business trips following the pandemic. 

This will undoubtedly have significant consequences on the travel and hospitality industries—two sectors severely affected by COVID-19 but it spells good news for sustainability.

Senior bankers, the article says, are keen to learn from the lessons of the past year by cutting costs and bolstering their green credentials. 

Speaking to the FT, Noel Quinn, HSBC’s chief executive, said he expected to reduce his own travel by about 50%, taking fewer, longer trips to the lender’s global hubs to lower the number of flights required.

[Read more: 4 banking giants embracing the future of work]

On another note, Britain’s Lloyds Banking Group and Dutch bank ABN Amro have become two of the first lenders to establish bank-wide emissions targets. 

Lloyds pledged to “sustain the momentum” built during the pandemic by keeping carbon-dioxide emissions from travel to less than 50% of 2019 levels, says the FT.

Similarly, ABN is looking to halve its air travel compared with 2017 by 2026. As part of this, the bank will ban employees from flying between European offices, and will instead force them to travel by train.

A 50% reduction in travel across the UK’s four largest banks compared with 2019 would save close to 120,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, according to FT calculations.  

Considerations for HR 

Up until somewhat recently, it was unusual for business leaders to talk about purpose beyond the need to maximize returns and profits for shareholders.

But employees — and the conversation around climate change — have significantly changed, and shaped, the narrative.

[Read more: Why ‘Earth Day’ matters to employees and how Big Tech is embracing sustainability]

As purpose and belonging become increasingly important for people at work, and customers actively seek out brands with a social purpose, sustainability has rightly come to the fore.

In many instances, employees will turn down a job if they don’t feel the company in question is as green as it should. In fact, according to one specific study, 64% of millennials will refuse a job if the prospective employer fails to have a strong corporate social responsibility 

how hr can drive sustainability

So, how can HR departments drive change?

Establish company-wide social purpose

HR teams will likely need to work closely with the C-suite to define the organization’s social mission and look at how employees can work towards common goals. 

Once this is in place, you’ll be able to devise the company’s code of conduct around this. 

If you’re struggling to come up with a meaningful agenda, have a look at the United Nation’s global sustainable development goals.

Look at what’s working — and what isn’t 

Once you have a plan in place, it’s time to review your workplace practices to make sure they are aligned with your organization’s goals. 

Of course, this is slightly more complicated when people are working remotely — meaning HR teams will likely have to work even harder to communicate the company’s mission. 

To overcome this challenge, create a code of ethics and share it with the entire workforce. 

Remember the plan should be dynamic — you should update goals and targets and assess them against the issues you’re looking to address.

Make sustainability a key part of recruitment  

The organization’s sustainability goals should be front and centre of your entire talent acquisition process. 

You should make sure the company’s sustainability goals are discussed during the interview process — this will also help you find candidates that are a good cultural fit.

Upskill your workforce 

A lot of sustainability measures require specialized knowledge, for things such as speaking with suppliers about sustainable sourcing methods. 

Ensure your workforce is fully up to date with the latest practices and they have the tools and knowledge they require to help the organization reach established goals and targets.

Incentivize them 

Make sure your sustainability goals are part of performance reviews and included as KPIs for employees. 

You should also add clear incentives to motivate the workforce. By offering a rewards program, you’ll also send a clear message to workers: sustainability goals are just as important as any other performance metric. In other words, sustainability isn’t an afterthought.

Encourage innovation

Involve employees in the process. Encourage them to come up with ideas to help boost sustainability efforts.

Make sure they know their opinion matters.

If you follow all of the above, you should be able to easily transform your business for the better.

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