Published in Mar-Apr 2022
The word ‘sustainability’ was defined as “adequately addressing the requirements of people today without jeopardising future generations’ ability to meet their own needs” in the 1987 Brundtland Commission Report.
The terms ‘durable’, ‘long-term’, ‘systematic’ and ‘sound’ are all synonyms for ‘sustainability’, which has now been defined as “a competitive strategy that represents an organisation’s ideology as well as its approach.” When the global corporate backdrop began to change rapidly about 20 years ago, success began to be redefined in more sustainable terms of ‘Triple Bottom Line’, ‘Quadruple Bottom Line’, and ‘Common Good Results’, rather than merely financial criteria.
A more holistic, multi-stakeholder approach is gaining favour since a company’s performance – including the attainment of its sustainability-oriented goals – is dependent first and foremost on its people. Demands for Human Resource Management (HRM) to become more sustainable are rising as organisations claim to have become more sustainable and to have contributed to global sustainable development. HRM is frequently discussed in terms of its impact on the environment. In fact, if there is one thing that the year 2020 has taught us, it is that accepting responsibility as an employer is crucial. Responsibility takes the form of managing and communicating effectively with employees, as well as regulating job expectations and establishing a safe working environment. Sustainable HRM, Green HRM, Socially Responsible HRM, Triple Bottom Line HRM, and Common Good HRM are all terms used to describe this type of HRM.
HR is certainly not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a firm ‘becoming green.’ But in reality, it plays a critical role in adopting sustainable practices, and sustainable practices have an impact on a variety of HR-related issues. The purpose of HRM is altering in a changing organisational environment, and a multidimensional sustainable HRM model is emerging that considers long-term influences, such as climate change, biodiversity, urbanisation and workforce demographics, rather than quarterly returns and market-driven, short-term financial issues. Natural resources and social capital are also becoming highly valued assets on par with economic capital. As a result, these resources are recognised as needing to be adequately protected through the creation of people-management strategies that consider the development of social, environmental and human capital. In essence, HR practices that generate a suitable working environment and beneficial human and societal outcomes without focusing on financial strategies and results are referred to as ‘sustainable’ in HR management.
Ecological consciousness is the buzzword of the day, and it is quickly encroaching on every aspect of our lives and business. Our lifestyles, both personal and professional, have recently begun to have such a negative impact on the environment that we cannot afford to ignore the consequences. We must either modify our way of life or face the consequences and without a question, the business sector is a big participant in environmental discussions and thus deserves to be an important part of the solution to the environmental problem.
Organisations must first ask themselves, “What role do we play in the community?” before incorporating sustainability into their activities. How are we addressing our environmental impact? Are we attempting to build a more diversified workforce? Is it true that humans are adjusting to technological change? Are we offering the retraining and opportunity that our employees and business will require to adapt to a world that is becoming increasingly automated? Are we employing behavioural finance and other tools to assist people’s plans for retirement so that they can invest in a way that will help them accomplish their objectives?
Broad suggestions on how to construct different aspects of sustainable HRM, as well as benchmarks for determining how green an organisation’s activities include:
Sustainable Recruitment: Employers should include eco-friendly locations, paperless interviews and other such practices in their recruitment portfolio. Furthermore, paper, resources and space may be saved by entering personnel information electronically into an HRIS database.
Enhance the Company’s Brand: Sustainable HRM promotes good opinions of an organisation’s reputation. Maintaining sustainability as a key value, prioritising ethics above profits and trying to improve the world are frequently perceived more positively by the public, which may impact how people feel about working for a company, as well as how consumers or clients feel about dealing with it. Making an attempt to lessen a company’s negative environmental consequences lets consumers and workers feel as though they are making a difference.
Sustainable Training and Development: Green training and development (T&D) educates employees on the importance of environmental management, trains them in energy-saving and waste-reduction techniques, raises environmental awareness within the firm, and allows employees to participate in environmental problem-solving, according to Baniyelme D. Zoogah, in The Dynamics of Green HRM Behaviours: A Cognitive Social Information Processing Approach (2011). Employees are made aware of many elements and the importance of environmental management through green T&D activities. It enables them to accept various conservation strategies, such as waste management, inside a business.
Adopting a Sustainable Culture: HR experts may guarantee that new workers’ culture is infused with sustainability by involving green practices in recruiting, onboarding and training. As a result, they can lay the groundwork for more sustainable processes and significantly reduce the company’s carbon footprint by reducing waste during the onboarding and training process. HRM practices and social aspects of sustainability are crucial in establishing a sustainable organisation and facilitating the adoption of more advanced environmental practices such as green supply chains, sustainable product development, and environmental management system implementation.
Community Outreach Initiatives: Employees at various levels of a business can participate in volunteer programmes that benefit the community. The most popular strategy for businesses to engage employees in sustainability is to recognise their participation in volunteer activities. Sustainability programmes can start out small, such as by establishing a recycling programme in the workplace.
Sustainability guarantees that an organisation’s culture is favourable; HR initiatives that combine diversity and inclusion programmes are the root of such behaviours and cultures. The business is able to develop a favourable culture towards pay equity, workforce inclusion, diversity and fewer occurrences of sexual harassment via sustainability. The most frequently cited positive outcomes from sustainability initiatives are improved employee morale, more efficient business processes, stronger public image, increased employee loyalty and increased brand recognition.
However, these factors are only a part of the equation when it comes to being a responsible employer; ESG (a company’s ‘Environmental, Social, and Governance’ responsibilities) efforts play a significant role and have become a prominent issue in employment branding. “The year 2020 gave us a lesson, and now that lesson confirms our view of how a long-term, sustainable strategy built around strong ESG principles is more critical than ever,” states S&P Global’s report Seven ESG Trends to Watch in 2021. Furthermore, although it may not seem like a natural fit, successful cooperation between marketing and HR may pay off handsomely for businesses wanting to stand out in a crowded market. The synergy between the two disciplines arises from their intrinsic commonalities. Building great brand recognition, providing excellent user experiences and successfully expressing a company’s values are essential in each scenario. The only significant difference is the audience. While marketing focuses on present and potential customers, the ‘clients’ in HR are current and prospective workers.
The most significant area of overlap between HR and marketing is their shared role in defining and selling a company’s values both internally and internationally. Transparency, honesty, inclusion and innovation are all guiding values that most businesses follow. It is HR’s role to hire people who can readily embrace those values, to assist employees to maintain those values and learn what values their co-workers demand.
Ultimately, this approach is very similar to the marketing department’s role in developing a company’s value proposition and selling it to customers through digital and social media channels. Although the audience and messaging may differ, optimum success in both areas is dependent on the establishment of relevant, meaningful ideas that are effectively communicated.
Fauzia Kerai Khan is CE, I&B Consulting, Assessing, Learning, Consulting. firstname.lastname@example.org