Spotlight on: environmentally friendly workplaces

The ‘green’ agenda has become a hugely important one for all businesses, and HR initiatives can be a powerful force for good in helping organisations become more environmentally friendly. But make sure you choose your green targets carefully if you want to generate maximum staff and client enthusiasm.

HR must act now if it is to avoid being “greenwashed” by marketing and media propaganda and lack of public understanding, says Scott McArthur, executive consultant at Atos Consulting.

Green issues

He explains: “Over the past 18 months, you can’t have failed to notice that the HR community has increasingly shown an interest in green issues.

“While I am not a member of the anti-green movement, I am worried that it is increasingly becoming difficult to tell the difference between genuine green initiatives and products or services branded by marketers as green, but which, on closer inspection, prove to be nothing of the sort.”

McArthur believes that too many chief executives are responding to political and public pressure and as a result are just paying green issues lip service.

He says HR has a duty to make sure there are policies in place to demonstrate – and above all accurately measure – how its organisation is actually reducing its carbon footprint.

Gareth Chick, HR director at consultancy Spring Partnerships, explains that if organisations genuinely want to be green, HR must devise strategies, practices and processes to achieve pre-set green objectives, and put these at the heart of line management culture and practice.

Set goals

“Set one overriding, clear, ambitious green goal for the business, put a commensurate target for cost saving or additional profit against the achievement of this target, and put qualitative benefits in as bonuses such as customer PR, employee attraction and retention, and quality standard improvement,” he says.

Richard Kauntze, chief executive of the British Council for Offices, believes that employers need to introduce sustainable workplace initiatives if they want to attract and retain staff, as employees will continue to seek out those organisations that reflect their own value systems – including the desire to be green. This tendency is reflected in the world of politics, with all the major parties trying to ‘out-green’ each other.

Be engaging

Kauntze stresses that HR needs to be open, honest and transparent with its green initiatives.

He suggests that if you’re thinking of introducing green initiatives, you should engage with the whole workforce to create a sense of empowerment among staff. If they feel they have a say in what works best for them when it comes to ‘going green’, they are likely to be a lot less sceptical and get on board faster.

Going green… getting buy-in from your CEO

  • Set up live examples with employees of how they are capable of doing two things at once – focusing on the green agenda while also looking after customers or achieving sales results.
  • Design some simple processes for how your green goals will be achieved.
  • Match your green processes and the results to existing HR processes so that commercial colleagues can see the link.
  • Don’t ask for up-front investment – show how the goal can be achieved with existing resource.
  • Consult with staff.

Source: Gareth Chick, HR director, Spring Partnerships

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