A company’s sustainability program helps ensure
its products, services, and operations have a positive impact on people and the
environment—from the raw materials it uses, practices at its suppliers’ sites,
modes of transportation, the use of its products by consumers, and the eventual
disposal of waste or spent product. Today, employees expect this of the
companies they work for. Fifty percent of U.S. employees say they will not work for a
that does not have strong sustainability commitments and seventy percent want
an opportunity to contribute to those commitments.
priorities of the Human Resource and Sustainability departments are tightly
connected. Important priorities for HR—increasing the commitment and motivation
of employees, and attracting and retaining talent—are advanced in companies
that have strong sustainability programs.
Studies show “a company with purpose” tops the list for attracting and retaining top talent, and fifty-five percent of U.S. employees would work for a socially responsible company
despite a lower salary. The sustainability program plays an important role in attracting talent, as it is an expression of the company’s purpose and provides the meaning employees are looking for.
The sustainability program can also support HR with employee retention. Seventy percent of U.S. employees are more likely to be loyal if they have opportunities to make a positive difference, and nearly eighty percent
“want to be an active participant in helping their company improve its responsible business practices by providing feedback, ideas and potential solutions.” HR can work with sustainability professionals to expand job-specific training, formalize the contributions employees can make—and expect to make—to the company’s sustainability goals, and link sustainability with employee compensation.
Tips for HR professionals utilizing sustainability programs to meet HR goals:
1. Team up and take inventory. What is the company doing on sustainability and can it be used more effectively to help HR reach some of its traditional objectives?
2. Examine the connections among sustainability, employee engagement, and business results.
From the book Talent, Transformation and the Triple Bottom Line by A. Savitz.
Author and researcher
Andrew Savitz urges HR professionals to incorporate “sustainability into traditional roles of managing HR processes, from recruitment to separation, developing organizational capacity, leading or facilitating culture change, and helping to motivate employees” as a means to strengthen performance on engagement and other key HR metrics.
It is important for the HR and sustainability functions to recognize that they define “employee engagement” differently. For HR, it is a measure of employee commitment and motivation to the company overall, while for sustainability professionals it is a measure of employee participation in the sustainability program. There is a growing body of
evidence linking employee engagement—the type HR measures—with sustainability performance and overall business results. At global equipment manufacturer
Ingersoll Rand, for example, employee actions on sustainability correlate with direct improvements in overall employee engagement. Using data to establish the connection led to a new working relationship that leverages sustainability programs to support the HR function.
Another key to success is to recognize sustainability can be a way to engage people in a very human process that motivates change. The sustainability department should work with HR to translate their respective business objectives to metaphors and stories that illustrate how each employee can contribute to making the company a better place to work and a stronger corporate citizen.
How Does Sustainability Enhance HR in Retail?
A number of
retailers' practices illustrate how the sustainability program can support the HR department:
Finally, HR professionals are often key participants in retail
Sustainability Executive Councils, which draw on the capabilities, perspectives, and influence of EVPs and SVPs from merchandising, private brands, marketing, legal, and others. With a seat at the table, HR professionals learn how the sustainability program can enhance engagement and recruitment. The Council benefits from
HR’s perspectives and insights on employees and hiring candidates which help shape the sustainability agenda.
Leadership Steps for HR and Sustainability. RILA and the CRC's Retail Sustainability Management Leadership Model includes a dimension on HR to enable retailers to benchmark their activities:
Additional resources for HR professionals include:
Visit www.rila.org/sustainability for more tools and resources.