November 9, 2018

How HR Can Help Drive Green Business Initiatives


Every year in the US, more than 5.3 billion tons of carbon emissions are released into the atmosphere. That’s the same weight as 24 million Statues of Liberty or 6 trillion baseball bats!

On a similar note, 51 percent of Americans wouldn’t work for a company that doesn’t have “strong social or environmental commitments,” according to a Cone Communications survey.

As an HR pro, you are in a unique position to kill two birds with one stone: lowering carbon emissions while boosting employee engagement.

Here’s how to get everyone in the office on board with positive, sustainable green policies that are good for your company and the environment:

1. Establish a Clear Plan of Action

Before anything, it is important to craft a defined strategy that includes clear goals and a way to measure progress.

Not sure where to start? Consider surveying the products and equipment you use in the office on a daily basis. Are there any eco-friendly alternatives you can use instead?

You may also want to invest in an environmental management system (EMS), a comprehensive platform that helps you map out how your company will reduce energy consumption and waste while increasing efficiency and profits.

2. Educate and Communicate

One of HR’s key roles is to communicate the company’s mission, vision, and values to employees. Some members of your workforce may be less well educated when it comes to environmental matters, which means they won’t necessarily feel compelled to act. It is up to you to bring them on board with your company’s green initiatives.

A very effective way to get your message across to workers is to break it down with statistics. Using eye-popping figures can make employees think more carefully about environmental causes. For example, let them know that the total amount of power consumed by idle electronics in the US is equivalent to the annual output of 12 power plants. Then, propose a simple solution: unplugging unused equipment.

3. Reduce Travel

Fossil-fuel-powered vehicles are the No. 1 producer of carbon emissions in America. To combat this, HR can encourage workers to go green when they commute by cycling, walking to work, or using public transit. They can also encourage telecommuting, which will help employees save money on their commutes while cutting emissions.

Business trips may be required sometimes, but travel-sharing schemes can help bring down emissions in those cases. Try establishing a carpooling system for any necessary business trips.

4. Digitize Documents

Not only can a paperless policy help the environment, but it can also make workflows more convenient for your staff. No more printing and photocopying! Your whole office could be far more streamlined if files were stored digitally, as opposed to lost in filing cabinets. Instead of drafting letters, send emails. Invoice your clients digitally. Implore workers to only use paper when absolutely necessary — and in these circumstances, opt for eco-friendly paper.

5. Make the Office More Energy Efficient

Office buildings contribute to carbon emissions every day, but much can easily be done to remedy this. For example, consider swapping desktops for laptops, which consume about half as much energy. Replacing traditional light bulbs with LED bulbs is proven to lower electricity consumption, and it can keep your power bills down, too. Remind all employees to turn off lights, computers, and appliances when they are not in use. In the kitchen area, your fridge will be using electricity 24 hours a day, so you may want to purchase an eco-friendly model. It will save you money in the long term and run more sustainably.

While many of these changes are small, they can make a big difference for your workers and the world they live in. If you’re hesitant about going green, remember: Eco-friendly options tend to increase productivity and bring down costs in the long run. Plus, it makes good business sense: Candidates and consumers alike are more attracted to environmentally conscious businesses.

Irma Hunkeler works for Re:signal, a digital marketing agency.

Read more in HR

Irma Hunkeler works for Re:signal, a digital marketing agency. Her experience includes working for clients in different industries such as travel, retail, recruitment, technology, and charitable institutions. Extensive networking with professionals across different industries allows her to collaborate with industry experts for her writing.