Sustainability in your HR Practices

Sustainability. Merriam-Webster defines sustain as “trying to keep up or prolong”, and ability as the “means or skill to do something” so we can conclude that sustainability means having the skill to keep an activity going.  Now, let’s add the word corporate in front of sustainabilityCorporate sustainability – what does that mean to you? Corporate sustainability is not a token term. It is becoming a driving force in the work culture of many organizations and a key concept sought after by many job seekers. Corporate sustainability is the concept that will differentiate companies and give them a competitive edge while helping to preserve our planet so the needs of future generations can be met.


Human Resources personnel is the driving force of interpersonal operations within a company of any size.  They are tasked with maintaining the communication balance within an organization and drive cultural initiatives. Here are five key ways Human Resources can promote company sustainability initiatives.  


Communicate the importance of sustainability

Creating and promoting positive change must begin at the top and work down, but Human Resources will be tasked with communicating the importance of sustainability. Senior leadership and Human Resources must work collaboratively to communicate the value of sustainability and reassure employees that green initiatives will be more beneficial than cumbersome. Communicate sustainability practices on social media and the company’s website to promote positive company branding. 

Clearly defined messages of what the company is doing to promote sustainability and why it is important must be delivered in different communication formats. Workshops and training sessions to explain the company’s efforts. As well as what each employee must do to achieve established sustainability goals will help communicate the message in a consistent manner. HR can facilitate small focus groups of employees to further strategize and spearhead company established green initiatives. Team building will help employees better understand company sustainability initiatives. It will also provide an opportunity to assimilate those initiatives into daily culture instead of an ordinary task to complete.  Progress begins with change, and all employees make a difference.


Save the trees. Go paperless.

Job applications, new hire paperwork, assessment results…so many facets of the employment process are still being completed with paper. Did you know that:

  • The U.S. uses about 30% of the global paper supply although it accounts for only 4.25% of the world’s population.
  • The average person in the U.S. uses more than 700 pounds of paper every year.
  • U.S offices use 12.1 trillion sheets of paper a year.
  • Paper accounts for around 26% of landfill waste.
  • 93% of paper comes from trees.
  • It takes nearly 47 gallons of water per ream of paper.
  • Reducing paper use reduces greenhouse gasses – 40 reams of paper is equivalent to 1.5 acres of a pine forest absorbing carbon for a year.

HR professionals are inundated with personal details of employees that must be kept confidential and secure.  Collecting paper applications and having employee data on paper is risky. Papers with employee data can get lost, be seen by unauthorized people and can get misfiled where access is unknown or unrestricted. Keep private details private by using cloud based employment software. SaaS (Software as a Service) offers no software installation on servers. The software provider does the heavy lifting – training, support, and upgrades – so employees can do the job they are supposed to. Stop using paper, and go paperless in the company’s employment processes.  Recruit using a robust Applicant Tracking System (ATS), onboard and communicate with employees using an intuitive Onboarding System and conduct Employee Assessments to evaluate employees’ skills all electronically. Going paperless saves time, money and offers a heightened level of security that paper cannot.   


Onsite versus Offsite

Remote and hybrid work schedules reduce emissions as compared with the daily drive to and from work. Human Resources professionals need to explore the financial and environmental impacts of flexible work arrangements and scheduling.  Evaluate if some roles can be completed in a four day week compared to a five day week to reduce commute time.  Examine the amount of domestic and international travel that needs to occur. Do employees really need to travel to another location for certain meetings? Can the message and collaboration occur with technology instead where travel is unneeded?  Remote and hybrid work schedules will not be conducive for all industries (ex. healthcare, manufacturing, and K-12 education), but it can work for many roles. This was proven when employees in many fields were forced to work from home due to COVID. 


Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (3R)

Look around within the company.  How quickly are items thrown away without a second thought?  Approximately 40% of all food in the U.S. goes into the trash taking second place to paper products. Every hour in the U.S., 2.5 million plastic bottles are tossed into the trash. Convenience today is not helping tomorrow. HR is intuitive of the work culture and can be leaders in the 3R initiative.

HR professionals are finding ways to cut costs by implementing sustainable practices. Reduce or eliminate the use of “disposable” cups in the break area and fill the areas with reusable items. Create a company food compost area to prevent food waste.  Have designated areas for recycling plastics, paper, cardboard, equipment and metals. Offer buybacks with gift cards or extra time off when employees recycle.  Track the company’s cost savings and environmental impact and share the data with employees to validate their efforts are saving money and advancing the sustainability mission.


Choose suppliers that are promoting sustainability

Knowledge is power. Find out what your company’s suppliers are doing. Are they minimizing waste and attempting to reduce emissions?  Does the supplier conduct internal audits to seek ways to be more sustainable?  How are materials procured? Is the vendor following fair-trade and cultural laws against child labor and paying fair wages to employees? Knowing the answer to suppliers’ internal and external practices can have a positive influence on the company’s financial and brand statuses. If your company is preaching sustainability, but purchasing from vendors who do not adhere to the same principles your company has communicated, it will take a lot to convince customers and job seekers that you practice what you preach which can result in a loss of money and talent. 

Company goals for the next year, five years and even ten years will pass in a blink of an eye. While it is important for a company to be profitable, leadership must take initiative to explore and implement sustainable practices to do their part in helping future generations grow and succeed to ensure longevity.  Contact ExactHire to learn more about our Applicant Tracking System (ATS), Onboarding System and  Employee Assessments to support your organization in your paperless initiatives towards sustainable practices.

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