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Why HR teams are core to an environmentally sustainable business approach
Organisations around the world are taking an increasing interest in reducing their environmental impact and developing an environmentally sustainable business approach. The most cynical amongst us say this increased interest in corporate environmental sustainability has developed for two reasons: good public relations and the fact that reducing energy use is cheaper in the long term. Ultimately however, humanity needs to reduce its impact on the planet before business becomes an irrelevance.
Once an organisation has an environmental policy, it needs to have action taken at every level so that everyone working for the organisation complies with the policies and ultimately so the organisation isn’t just paying lip-service to the very real issues of climate change. For the sake of the planet, the organisation needs to practice what it preaches and for this to happen there needs to direct involvement from Human Resources.
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A paper to be published in the journal Human Resource Management by researchers from Australia and China shows how Human Resources teams have a significant impact on the way that such policies are carried out and help their organisation develop an environmentally sustainable business approach. It was found that there are four areas HR are core to in making corporate environmental sustainability work. What the researchers found was that ‘Green HRM’ practices and behaviours:
- Are positively related to employee workplace in-role green behaviour. This is to say that Human Resources teams espousing the company’s green values will have a direct impact on the way that employees think and behave. Organisations where HR didn’t take their corporate environmental sustainability seriously also corresponded to low levels of environmental action and concern.
- Correlate strongly with employee workplace ‘extra-role green behaviour’. This means that employees tend to increase their green behaviours beyond those in the job description where HR departments are active in both undertaking their own environmental behaviours and in promoting green thinking and actions as part of their work.
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- Indirectly influences employee workplace in-role green behaviour through the mediation of what is known as the ‘psychological green climate’. What this means is that HR can often set the cultural agenda in terms of thinking and practice across an organisation.
- Create ethical and environmental interest. The researchers found that, where organisations had HR functions that were active in promoting and displaying green behaviours and thinking, this also tended to reduce costs and have a direct impact on the profitability of the organisation as well. The more employees have an interest in the environmental impact of the company, the better the organisation tends to do.
3 key HR practices for developing an environmentally sustainable business approach
In order for an organisation to really live its environmentally sustainable policies it is essential that Human Resources are involved. The researchers found that there are three key HR activities which make a significant difference:
- The first suggested by the authors was, “they should design work tasks to meet organizational green policy requirements and consider providing employees with adequate green training and educational opportunities.”
- Secondly, the paper states that “Organizations should properly appraise employee green behaviour, and link this behaviour to promotional opportunities, pay and compensation, for employees to be encouraged and motivated to participate in green activities, and to contribute to green management objectives.”
- Finally, it was also suggested that new applicants for work at a company should be screened for positive green beliefs as a norm. Such attitudes within the organisation can help the company’s policies be translated into action with greater force.
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Organisational culture change through HR? Really??
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