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How HR can help businesses step up to the green agenda

Latest statistics tell us that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, that we’ve warmed up our planet by more than 1 degrees, and that the great pacific garbage patch is now twice the size of Texas. It therefore is unsurprising that sustainability is hot on everyone’s agenda right now.  

Less than a decade ago, the majority of business leaders didn’t talk of ‘purpose’ beyond profits and returns to shareholders. But those days are gone. With an increasing demand from employees who want work that is meaningful, customers that want brands that inspire, and societies that want companies that are responsible, organisations are wise to be implementing motivating corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies, and inspiring employee proposition values that include solid sustainable goals.  

In fact, 64% of millennials won’t take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have strong CSR practices, and 88% say their job is more fulfilling when they’re provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues. Similarly,  78% of consumers feel that sustainability is important and 84% of customers say that poor environmental practices will alienate them from a brand or company.

With sustainability high on everybody’s radar, here are five ways employers can help businesses step up to the green agenda through their HR policies:  

Build sustainability into your EVP

With 73% of people more likely to accept a job based on the company’s sustainability efforts, making sure your commitment to the green agenda is loud and clear could really influence your talent acquisition. 

Your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) communicates who you are and what you believe in and should come into play at every stage of your recruitment lifecycle, as well as in your people culture afterwards. Work alongside your leadership team to define what your company’s sustainability goals are and how everyone in the team can work together to achieve them.  

You can make a start by reviewing internal policies, values, and your mission statement under this new lens. Refresh your candidate materials – or create new ones – in line with your green goals and look at any external assets that need to be tweaked. The clearer your stance on sustainability, the more likeminded people you will attract. And, ultimately, if you’re attracting more people on board with sustainability close to their heart, it’s going to make your drive to net zero much easier.

Educate your staff

While going green should be a business-wide initiative, HR policy has a key role to play in influencing both individual and corporate habits.

Every business should provide basic education to employees on best practice for being eco-friendly – such as switching off lights at the end of the working day and reducing waste. If you want to provide even more support for people to go carbon neutral, you can also invest in external training courses or enticing salary sacrifice schemes to encourage your staff to take up greener practices around their work habits.

Training your people on environmental issues is a great starting point, but creating a green mindset is also about engaging your employees and encouraging them to make better choices.  


Educating your team is one thing, but if you can go one step further and incentivise their workplace practices to be more eco-friendly, you’ll not only reach your net zero goals faster, but you’ll likely attract better talent, and retain it. Your sustainability goals should be incorporated into performance reviews and included as an objective for employees with clear incentives attached to them. 

Offering a reward programme will not only deliver tangible and measurable business gains but will send out the message that your sustainability goals are just as important as any other KPI. 

Reconsider your working policies

Have a good look at your work policies and processes, are they in line with your newly defined sustainability goals? Any areas that are not up to scratch need to be addressed and a code of ethics should be developed and communicated to the entire workforce.

As offices reopen, employers must factor climate change into its decisions about future homeworking policies. For example, flexible working will cut down on carbon emissions from commuting, but it can mean using double the number of spaces (at home and in the office), which means double energy consumption for heating, lighting, and devices. An element of flexible working is almost inevitable in the new world of work, and employers should rethink policies, improve individual advocacy, and where required, issue refresher training to build sustainability into a more nuanced workforce.

Plan, monitor and measure

Failing to plan, is planning to fail. Likewise, a goal without a plan is just a wish. So, once you’ve identified where you can improve, map out how you can achieve it with a roadmap and project milestones, to get there. Setting a commitment with a timeframe is important for accountability and motivation, and this should ideally have a senior sponsor to sign-off and act as an advocate for the project. 

Certain industries offer more room for impact than others, but most industries can make a difference somewhere – such as by switching to green energy, turning of lights and devices at night, improving in-office facilities (such as by going paperless or improving recycling), or encouraging homeworking. 

If you would like more advice on how HR policies can help businesses step up to the green agenda please get in contact with our expert HR team – Hertfordshire’s leading HR consultancy, bringing your business the benefits, protection and experience of an entire HR department.

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