There are numerous financial benefits for eco-friendly companies such as reliefs from the climate change levy, capital allowances on energy-efficient items and tax relief for remediation of contaminated and derelict land. Indeed, being eco-friendly is financially appealing; research by Nielsen has shown that eco-friendly companies have a competitive edge as consumers are more willing to use their products and services, as well as being willing to pay more for an eco-friendly product. What is often overlooked is the employee benefits associated with being an eco-friendly employer.
Employee benefits that flow from implementing eco-friendly policies include increased engagement, loyalty, motivation, productivity and confidence. This in turn gives rise to a decrease in staff turnover and fewer workplace disputes. However, how does an employer implement eco-friendly policies and whose responsibility is it to steer an organisation in an eco-friendly direction?
There is an argument that HR has significant influence in an organisation’s ability to be green as it can engage with all levels of staff from senior executives to junior employees. HR will likely have the best picture on how its organisation is run and will be best placed to determine whether policies will be effective. The argument is that HR should steer the organisation to implement eco-friendly HR policies. This type of HR has been labelled as “Green HRM”.
Green HRM is essentially an expansion of the traditional HR role and requires HR to actively support and promote eco-friendly policies. For example, Green HRM will see season ticket loan policies being implemented in an attempt to encourage staff to use public transport. At a basic level, policies can discourage correspondence by post, encourage email, and minimise printing. Bike to Work schemes, recycling, travel policies, use of employee forums and analysis of supply chains eco-friendly credentials are all matters that HR can positively encourage.
You may think that employee environmental worries are nothing to be concerned about, but it should be noted that the University and College Union and the Trades Union Congress have started educating and training their members to be eco-friendly. They have introduced a Green Representative role; their role is to highlight environmental issues and steer branches to promote a greener agenda. With this in mind, it is foreseeable that employees will be encouraging their employers to be eco-friendly and to challenge employers who are not. Employers looking to avoid any environmental staff disputes should consider whether they can implement any eco-friendly policies now. Employment tribunals have protected employees who hold strong philosophical beliefs about sustainability
So, whilst it is difficult to argue that there is a duty on HR to promote eco-friendly policies or that Green HRM is the way forward, this is a subject that cannot be taken lightly. There is clearly significant benefit to HR picking up the mantle and running with eco-friendly policies.
6th February 2020