Leading Sustainable Organizations
Companies that perform well with respect to sustainability can be distinguished from those that don’t by an array of organizational design features. High performers have a clear strategy guiding their sustainability activities, and the relationship between sustainability and their business strategy is clearly articulated. In addition, the sustainability activities and objectives are coordinated and integrated into their organizational design and management processes. Sustainability is not an add-on; it is a part of how these companies operate.
The human resources function is responsible for designing and managing the key talent management processes of organizations. Given its role in a major management process, what role should the HR function have in the sustainability programs of organizations?
The answer is obvious: HR’s role should be to build sustainability into its own activities and processes so that it can play a major role in the structuring of a company’s sustainability processes, practices and strategies.
The role of HR in corporate sustainability programs has been the focus of relatively little research, but recent research by the Center for Effective Organizations has gathered data from HR executives in major corporations. It provides some interesting insights into the current position of HR functions in organizations with respect to sustainability and points to what HR’s role should be in order for organizations to be effective in regard to sustainability.
Overall, senior HR executives are very positive about the importance of sustainability to them personally. They believe that sustainability activities have a positive impact on shareholder value, employee loyalty, recruitment, and employee engagement, and over 82% believe it can positively affect corporate profits. On the other hand, only 51% say it is an important focus of HR in their company.
HR’s Role in Sustainability Programs: What It Is, What It Should Be
When asked about the role of HR in their company’s sustainability program and activities, 3% of HR executives say HR has the primary responsibility and only 1% say it should have the primary responsibility. A larger number (13%) do feel it should be a leader, but only 5% think it currently is. This finding is in agreement with data gathered from board members and senior executives.