Green HR- a brief introduction

Irene Gloria Addison

We are all living nowadays in a more environmentally friendly world and we are all aware of our duty to contribute as much as possible to the welfare/ the well-being of our environment.

Green IT (ISO 50.000) is maturing as a standard (think of Green Data Centers, green UPSes, etc), and so do several over Green Initiatives. And of course, the question is: “What about a Green HR?”

Defining Green HRM

Green HR(M) as a term is used to all possible HR policies that could contribute to an organization’s environmental agenda.

Green HRM was coined as a term almost 10 years ago by Renwick, D.W.S. Redman, T. and Maguire, S. (2008 – Green HRM: A Review, Process Model, and Research Agenda, ) as “the integration of corporate environmental management into human resource management”.

Btw, the notion of Employee ‘Green Discipline Management’ is even older – probably from the mid- 80s / early 90s.

Today, some Green HRM activities that have become typical/ even a standard for some companies.  For example:

  • the use of telephone- or video- interviewing to pre-screen candidates, in order to minimize the environmental impact of travel.
  • avoiding unnecessary printing and recycling printed paper, is another extremely common example.

There are also HR Policies in some companies (especially in Manufacturing, Mining and other ’Heavy Industries’, that ‘dictate’ and/or reward the employee’s ‘environmentally friendly’ behaviour.

Employees traditionally used to feel that it is not their responsibility to care about anything ‘Green’ in their work environment, but the Millennials seem to be changing this norm.

Some more examples of Green HRM

  • Providing free bicycles for employees to come to work instead of driving (rather common in Northern & Western Europe).
  • Organizing Employee car-pools (I think that almost everyone in the US is trying to do that).
  • Buying computers from companies which are using recycled components in one form or another.
  • Buying stuff from local vendors (again reducing the CO2 contribution of anything transported too far).
  • Some companies go to the extreme(?) to use the total amount of printed pages by an employee during his/her performance review.
  • There is even recycled (certified) office furniture

So, let’s think of Green HR as every possible employee activity / interface / touchpoint (whether metaphorical or physical) that helps promote the organization’s sustainability practices and relevant commitments. Obviously, creating ‘Green Awareness’ should be part of this bouquet too.

Empowering Green HR

HR should have a better vision, involvement and opportunity to (re)define and contribute to the organization’s Green Agenda.  After all, all possible Green Policies are always being carried out by Humans!

And of course, it all starts with providing environmental education training to both managerial and non-managerial employees.  Some companies go as far as creating environmental awareness seminars for their employees’ families and even for their customers too.

Btw, have you trained all your Sales People in your organization on the green aspects of all your products and services?

Maybe, we should go one step back and start embedding our environmental requirements or policies in all our Recruitment Ads and relevant communication?

Assume that you did train all your employees in your Green Practices. Have you -as HR Manager/ Department – asked all the Managers in your organization to set green goals, green target- KPIs and responsibilities for their Teams/ Sections / Departments/ Business Units/ Divisions?

Have you -again as HR- made sure that ‘Green Incidents’ are recorded, analysed and provide lessons learnt/ best Practices? Is there active monitoring of the actual use of all your environment policies and set responsibilities?  Are results and improvements turning into new clearly communicated policies to all employees?

By the way, forecasting the number of employees and types of employees that our organization needs to implement all possible / desired corporate environmental management activities & initiatives (think for example of ISO 14000), is a Green HR Activity & Functional Duty.

And, maybe it’s time to start thinking even about Green Compensation & Benefits packages.

Some Green HRM Industry Studies

  • Employees are willing to work in a organization only when they feel it adds to their value profile (Dechant and Altman (1994)
  • In 2009 Hewitt Associates found out that: “86% of employees at organizations with high engagement agreed that they worked for an employer that was socially and environmentally responsible”
  • Same 2009 Study also found out that: “Green HR practices contribute to positive organizational reputation, higher or sustained employee engagement and eliminating waste/reducing their impact on the environment”. Recent studies have also supported the same conclusions.
  • Green Staffing is “in”- it involves hiring individuals with Environment Management skills, mindsets, and behaviour).
  • Rewards do motivate and do increase commitment from workers to be environmentally responsible (Daily &Huang, 2001).
  • Furthermore, rewards sensitize employees to environmental consciousness; and discourage undesired behaviours while reinforcing preferred ones
  • Green Performance-Related Pay (PRP) has been a reality for 25+ years. For example: Du Pont (and other US Companies) bases part of their executive compensation and bonus system for Middle & Senior Managers on active proven and measurable environmental stewardship practices. Bonuses can be over 10 % if the Managers “develop an environmentally benign pesticide for agriculture or a non-polluting product”. There are plenty of other PRP examples also from Europe and other geographies; please google it for more data.

Green HSE

Traditionally Employee Safety in the workplace, is an HR area of responsibility (or at least something to be taken care of – even if ‘outsourced’ internally).

Health and Safety Professionals have all now become Health, Safety and Environmental Professionals! So, aspects of the environmental management agenda (including environmental protection) of an organisation have been incorporate into these roles.

A small ‘win’ for Green HR.  after all, ”…Green workplace is defined as a workplace that is environmentally sensitive, resource efficient and socially responsible” (SHRM, 2009).

FYI: Dupont, 3M, Allied, Signal, Amoco, and others have found out that their environmental management policies and activities have resulted in improvements in employee- workplace health, better local community- health, enhanced corporate image and corporate citizenship (CSR) benefits.

In Conclusion

Environmental Whistle- blowing has become a thing of the past for all organization who have put in place a clear Green Agenda HRM Framework that has been communicated to all employees and has been supported by relevant training.

Keep in mind that our Millennials – yes, our own Young Africans, are extremely environmentally conscious and will be your best allies in supporting all Green Agenda items in your organization as long as you also provide them with and explanation of the ‘why’ on the need of every policy.

And like everything else, Policies -however great- they are just paper- exercises, unless they are related to planned activities, clearly communicated and supported by all, monitored, and periodically reviewed (regarding their efficiency and relevancy).

So, let’s all empower a Green Agenda in our organizations!!! It might even help you with employee attraction & retention and even in avoiding PR disasters.

Finally, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) thinks that “a green employer may improve employer branding, company image and is a useful way to attract potential employees who have environmental orientation” (CIPD 2007).

Obviously, there are no universal Golden Rules for Green HR. You need to develop ones that are relevant to your organization.

Thank you and Good Luck,


About the Author: Irene Gloria Addison is the owner of HIREghana [Human Intelligence Recruitment], a Leader Ghanaian Recruitment Agency and also a HRM & Organizational Development Consultancy, based in Accra. 

Irene welcomes your feedback/ comments/ remarks/ suggestions via your email message to Press [at ] HIREghana can be reached at +233 50 228 5155 or +233 266 555 907

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© 2017 Irene Gloria Addison and © 2017 Human Intelligence Recruitment

 Source: Irene Gloria Addison | | Ghana

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