HR’s role in helping businesses reach net zero
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HR’s role in helping businesses reach net zero

With COP26 in full swing, seeing leaders from across the globe unite to tackle climate change, we consider; what is HR’s role in helping businesses reach net zero?

UK businesses are responsible for a high proportion of carbon emissions – a recent estimate reports that they contributed 17% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the UK – but they can also be at the heart of developing the solutions that will make a big difference. 

HRDs face a daunting to-do list in the aftermath of the pandemic, but it should not stop them from playing their part in tackling the climate crisis. As companies consider how to recover from the impact of the pandemic and bolster growth, there is an opportunity to integrate a focus on sustainability into their business strategy and day-to-day activities, and to reduce the carbon footprint of their operations. HR departments should start thinking more along the lines of “travel allowance” rather than “car allowance”. 

So what can HRDs be doing to steer their companies towards net zero? 

Values and culture 

HR professionals can encourage organisations to talk about their commitment to environmental sustainability in their core values. Increasingly, companies’ employees and prospective staff, as well as customers and investors, want to work for, buy from or invest in companies that have a commitment to climate action. Employers that adapt their business strategy to create a lasting positive impact on the communities they serve while accelerating action on climate change will attract high calibre candidates more successfully.  


Referring to an organisation’s commitment to climate action in job adverts or during the interview process can help attract candidates. Practical ways of cutting the carbon footprint of recruitment activities include a move to paperless administration and conducting more interviews online to reduce unnecessary travel. 

In addition, including your environmental sustainability objectives and employee requirements in the induction process can highlight awareness among new staff of your commitment to climate action. 

Flexible working

One thing the pandemic showed is that flexible or hybrid working can be successful. Adopting these new ways of working more regularly can impact your carbon footprint in a big way, simply by cutting emissions generated by those commuting to the workplace. Beware, however, that employers must factor in the impact of employees working from home and encourage sustainable choices like switching to a green energy provider at home and minimising energy usage. 

Training and development can also move online so people don’t need to travel as much. Blended approaches and technology, such as live online delivery and social and collaborative learning, can all reduce environmental impact. 

Relatively small changes to different areas of HR and people management policy and practice can have a significant effect on reducing your carbon footprint. HR can lead on these changes and collaborate with other areas of the business to integrate climate action into all aspects of your business. 

Contact us today for expert HR advice and support…

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