We’ve all heard that green is the new black. Just like organizational culture was touted in the ‘90s as essential for business success, social responsibility seems to have taken its place during this decade. It’s good to be green — that’s what a lot of companies are finding, as they integrate environmentalism and sustainability into their corporate culture. Not only is corporate sustainability good for the community and the planet, but it can also help employees reduce waste and operate more efficiently. Companies tout their environmental initiatives in annual reports, core values and community activities. Yet companies often fail to leverage their environmental efforts in one key area and that’s recruiting. Many companies are missing a key opportunity here because studies show a commitment to sustainability can be a factor the most desirable candidates weigh when choosing an employer.
There are three main drivers for Talent Management to consider as you determine if your organization should increase its sustainability efforts: importance, cost savings and congruence. The first thing you have to determine is whether or not social responsibility really matters to your organization and your candidates. Since green recruiting is such a new idea, there is conflicting information out there. Talent Management leaders must determine if social responsibility is important enough to the top talent you’re seeking that you really need to go green in order to attract and retain them.
The second driver for many organizations to create a green recruiting function is the significant cost saving associated with green solutions. I am sure some of you may disagree with me and say this should be the number one driver, but as the economy regains strength and companies begin to hire at their pre-recession levels again, the focus will be on finding the best qualified candidate and the right cultural fit.
The third driver is congruence. If your organizational culture touts an environmentally friendly mission or emphasizes sustainability in your consumer advertising, then you better have a sustainable HR function! There are some companies that make a half-hearted attempt at greenwashing. Incongruence in words and actions can be detected a mile away by today’s savvy job seeker.
Is there a business case for going green? You bet there is! A finding from an i4cp’s 2010 Major Issues Study, reported in an article by Mark Vickers in February 2010 was that over three-quarters of the responding business professionals projected there would be more green business initiatives in the coming year. Additional data suggested business professionals view this “green” issue as vital to business success. If your organization has not researched the business case for sustainability, it’s time to broach the subject. Organizations evaluate their commitment in many ways. Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist at Microsoft wrote an article on how cloud computing can greatly reduce the net energy use of business computing. Now even the clouds are green! In April 2010, the U.S. Airways monthly magazine was dedicated to Going Green and highlighted ten businesses that bloomed – then boomed by leveraging sustainability. It is an interesting mix of industries and proves that everyone can get into the green game, save money and increase profits. The ten featured organizations were:
- New Belgium Brewing
- Coca-Cola Enterprises
- University of New Hampshire
- Wynn Las Vegas
- Greensburg, Kansas
There are many ways these organizations demonstrate their green commitment, but one thing they all have in common is how they have rolled sustainability into their values. This is where the third driver to go green – congruence – comes into play. If your organization sees the value of embracing sustainability, for whatever reason, then it must become a value. You cannot hope to have the please consider the environment before printing footer on your emails and think that will send the sustainability message. Commitment in actions and stated values are where you need to be.
In a special issue of the HRPS People & Strategy Journal there was an article on “Transitioning to the Green Economy” by Jeana Wirtenberg, Senior Advisor at the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise and she called out to Human Resources professionals with some sound advice. “Sustainability represents a huge opportunity for HR to play a more strategic role in their organizations, something HR had been aiming at for years. In many ways, it falls right in HR’s sweet spot. Under the right circumstances, HR professionals can help infuse sustainability into talent management systems, but they have to build up their own competencies in this area”. Over the years we have been asked to continue to build competencies and move from a tactical function to a more strategic business partner, so it comes to no surprise that we will need to build knowledge around sustainability.
So where should we start? I believe there are many opportunities to go green in every step of the employee life cycle from candidate search to retirement benefits, but the largest area of impact may be right at the start with recruitment.
PART 2 COMING SOON!