Business sustainability is often defined as managing the triple bottom line—where businesses attend to their financial, social, and environmental risks (sometimes referred to as people, profits, and planet). Today, sustainability is an issue faced by businesses of all sizes, as embracing sustainable practices leads to better corporate culture, happier employees and customers, and greater long-term profitability and brand proposition. While Human Resource Management teams are less likely to be involved in the creation of sustainable programs, they could play a quintessential role in the implementation of an effective, sustainable strategy. In this article, we will discuss why and how sustainability applies to HR, and conversely, how HR responsibilities and leadership can influence sustainability and corporate strategies.

Sustainability—What is it, and Why is it so Important?

Sustainability is increasing a company’s profitability by managing both the risks and opportunities of the economy, environment and social climate. Unfortunately, it appears that many leaders see sustainability as something “nice-to-do” rather than a “need-to-do,” despite their claim to prioritize it. Thus, sustainability in the work environment lacks leadership; there is not enough motivation for profit-driven executives to continually alter and conform businesses to sustainable practices.

Sustainability affects every area of business, from how your employees see their workplace and feel about what they’re doing to what customers think and how they relate to you. Today, people care about what goes on behind closed doors; does this company genuinely care about people and the environment, or solely profit? Customers want to interact with a business that they feel is making a positive impact, and employees want to work for a company where they feel they are contributing to the greater good. That’s why sustainability is so intertwined with a company’s success.

When it comes down to it, sustainability is a people issue. It’s all about what people are expecting from your business, and whether or not you prove to hold it central to your organization. Thus, sustainability is very much connected with HR, even though HR doesn’t necessarily need to “own” it. Human Resources must be woven into the fabric in developing a case for business sustainability, creating the organization’s culture and leading it to sustainable efforts.

How Will Sustainability Affect the HR Profession?

Sustainability is already changing the business climate—HR will play a more central role in it. Employee desires are changing; workers want to be somewhere that is purpose-driven and values sustainable practices. Sustainability can be embedded into recruitment, branding, engagement, training, and leadership, and HR professionals are the ones who need to implement and carry out those sustainable practices.

How Might HR Influence Sustainability?

There are a few ways that HR can be central to sustainability implementation and follow-through, such as:

  • Acting as Leaders – HR professionals can be very clear examples of sustainable practices for others to follow. Beyond just promoting the ideals, they can help further other employee’s abilities and gain employee feedback on which practices are working and which are not.
  • Defining and Promoting it Within the Organizational Culture – HR is the head of recruitment and training. They can ingrain sustainable ideas from the start for better chances of the practices sticking. They can also encourage them throughout lifecycles and daily tasks; at any point in an individual’s career, HR is there to help reinforce sustainable ideas and monitor their implementation.
  • Focusing on People – After all, the purpose is people. HR’s entire existence is about people, and so it is with sustainability. HR can help show how the company is value-based rather than profit-driven; it can implement practices that help keep that central to the organization as well.

Sustainable practices change how customers and employees view a company. Leveraging sustainability in company initiatives to engage, inspire, and connect employees can bring tremendous benefits in attracting employees with aligning values, increasing job satisfaction and retention, and appealing to and preparing for younger employees.

Especially for the millennial generation, a sustainable business is an appealing business. The generation as a whole is looking to support organizations that do good, which impacts whom they go to for service and whom they look to for work. As HR permeates every section of a business and every person involved, they are the perfect fit for implementing and managing sustainability.

Strong Human Resource support is among the most critical needs for businesses and organizations. For help evaluating your sustainability, contact the experts at Lauber Business Partners.

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