South Africa is one of Africa’s top carbon emitters, and ranks 12th as the World’s biggest Green House Gas (GHG) contributor. Although May is South Africa’s national Energy month, a month dedicated to saving energy, it should be a long-term goal of ours to preserve as much of the earth’s natural resources as we can. Every decision we make regarding what form of transportation we use, our dietary choices and our energy consumption for example, all have an impact on the environment.
But how do we calculate this impact? We can do that by calculating our carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, place, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Inevitably, the larger your carbon footprint, the bigger your impact on the environment. Calculate yours here: https://www.conservation.org/carbon-footprint-calculator#/
Sustainability has become an imperative—for companies, as well as for the planet. A decade ago, reducing environmental impact was merely a “nice to have” for organizations. Today, leaders face ever-increasing pressure from employees, customers, and investors to act decisively on environmental issues. It’s now a necessity—as well as a genuine and enormous business opportunity.
GREEN HR – AN IMPORTANT CONCEPT
Green HR, an extension in the field of human resources, aims to promote and achieve sustainable goals within an organization. Green HR uses HR policies to build a comprehensive system of ensuring the preservation of the earth’s natural resources by bringing awareness to employees. Green HR plays an important role in developing a strategic organization that finds alternative ways to save costs without compromising on their talent and essential resources. An example of these alternatives ranges from promoting energy saving amongst the organization’s employees to the usage of ethical practices. Green HR initiatives align with various HR processes like staffing, performance management, training, and development.
WHY SHOULD HR DEPARTMENTS GO GREEN?
- It encourages organisational longevity: Human resource management is crucial in ensuring an organization’s vision, effective governance, and future development. HR acts as the moral compass of the organisation. They put forth policies and practices that are viable for humans and nature. Essentially, if organisations are not pushing for more sustainable practices, the Earths’ natural resources will continue to deplete at a rapid rate and the future of humankind continues to hang in balance. Furthermore, organisations who do not think sustainably lessen their chances of longevity. Statistically, 62% of executives consider sustainable strategy to be necessary for competitive advantage and thus, sustained success.
- It can increase the efficiency of your organisation: Green HR practices can achieve higher efficiency through electronic filing, car sharing, job sharing, teleconferencing, and virtual interviews, recycling, online recruitment and training, energy-efficient office spaces. Conducting regular meetings to discuss the development of strategic green HR capability creates awareness among employees. It must be well-aligned with the organization’s overall strategy, which for higher employee commitment and organizational performance.
- It develops a culture of concern for the holistic wellbeing of fellow employees: Green HR ensures that employees are a priority, as humans are at the heart of every organization. Green HR fosters an environment that focuses on employee well-being, how employees can be more sustainable in their everyday life, and ultimately perform better in their jobs. Research has shown that employees who indulge in green practices, ranging from going vegan to volunteering, are more focused at work. Green HR helps in gaining a positive impact and social outlook on employee relations in an organization. It contributes to developing holistic employee wellbeing, as employees feel responsible for preserving the environment as a part of their functional contribution to the job.
- It helps to achieve greater employee job satisfaction and dedication, which leads to increased productivity: The growth potential of organizations is enormous when organizations align with green initiatives. Green HR involves eco-friendly initiatives that have the potential of lowering the carbon footprint of the organization. Research shows that employees who partake in these initiatives are less likely to fall ill. Employees will be more active at work with meaningful initiatives and reduce the rate of absenteeism. This ensures the sustained productivity of employees, and thus, the organization. Furthermore, going green with your HR can help improve employee retention rate, as employees may take pride in their organisation who shows concern for nature and society as a whole.
- It can be used to create good public relations if an organization adds a green initiative to its workplace: 66% of consumers would spend more on a product if it came from a sustainable brand according to Nielsen studies. Interestingly, 81% of global consumers strongly believe that organisations should help improve the environment. As millennials and generation Z consumers become the majority, there is a changing trend towards supporting sustainability. Although sustainability is also about social and economic aspects, environmental concerns are leading the thinking of modern consumers.
HOW CAN YOU MAKE YOUR ORGANISATION’S HR FUNCTIONS MORE ‘GREEN’
- Host virtual interviews instead of in-person interviews – this quick and efficient method of interviewing saves the candidate from travelling to and from your business, lessening the amount of GHG’S emitted during your hiring process.
- Store all your documents on a centralised cloud. Here, you are saving physical storage space in your organisation, and you reduce the need for printing (thus, saving the trees!)
- Foster a sustainable and green work culture, where employees are encouraged to live cleaner and greener, and work strategically for the long-term. Better yet, make it competitive! Set incentivised targets for employees to offset their carbon footprint.
- Promote work from home days where employees do not need to travel to work. BONUS: Working from home has seen an increase in employee productivity by 13%. (read more about it here: https://www.apollotechnical.com/working-from-home-productivity-statistics/)
- If employees want to come to work, encourage them to use public transport. Better yet, set up a scheduled lift club for your employees.
- Ensure there is enough greenery in the workplace. Create a space where employees can appreciate nature and take a moment to breathe.
- Probably one of the most important points: ensure that you put your employees’ mental health at the forefront of your organisational culture. This will ensure a sustainable workforce, and a reduction in the revolving door effect, ultimately saving the organisation loads on recruitment.
The list above are just a few ways in which you can go green with your organisational processes. One should not shy away from going green out of fear that it will set the company back financially. There are small (and practically free) things one can do that make a big difference. Just remember, there is NO PLANET B.
About the Author:
Article written by Ashleigh Ball, Consultant, AIMS International South Africa