You’ve likely watched or heard of “An Inconvenient Truth”. You recycle at home. You’ve bought and set the programmable thermostat. You know that “CFL” refers to not just a football league, but also to a light bulb. You’re no energy angel, but you’ve taken small steps to make important changes. You’re not worried about your friend or spouse calling David Suzuki or Al Gore on you.
The impact of climate change on the environment is everywhere in the media. It is a critical political and social issue that is facing us, and is particularly high profile with the Canadian federal election and American presidential election campaigns on the front pages across North America.
So why is this an important issue for your business from a human resources perspective? As we’ve discussed in previous articles, finding and keeping great employees is critical to the growth and profitability of your company.
How do you attract and retain great staff? For many employees, especially those who belong to Generation Y, they seek to find “meaning” in their work, especially from a socially-conscious perspective. They want to know that their company is positively contributing to the world, and that their job is making a positive difference. Being environmentally responsible is one way of doing so.
Also, it is important from an employer branding perspective to focus on what sets you apart from other employers, and commitment to the environment is one way to set your company apart from the rest.
So what are some initiatives that companies can do to be “green”, attract and retain great employees, and improve the bottom line? Consider some of the following:
- Telecommuting - Employees can work remotely, provided they have the right tools and accountability structures. For companies, this reduces your need for office space and equipment. With gas prices at record levels, this reduces not only emissions, but also your employees’ expenses.
- Flexible work schedules / Reduced work weeks - Have employees come to work at non-peak travel times, thus reducing their time snarled in rush hour traffic, and also reducing emissions from idling on parking-lot like roads. A reduced work week (e.g. 9 days every 2 weeks) reduces energy consumption not only in the office, but also cuts their commuting carbon emissions.
- Incentives for alternative methods of transportation - Instead of providing free parking as a perk for single occupant vehicles, consider discounted transit passes, preferred parking for car pools, and providing lockers and showers for cycling.
- Encourage employees to reduce their energy use - Turn off computers, monitors, photocopiers and printers when not in use. Put lights on motion sensors, so that they turn on only when people are in the room. Reduced energy use lowers your utility bills.
- Implement recycling programs - Give your staff recycling bins at their workstations, by the printers and photocopiers, and in the lunch room. Replace large garbage bins with smaller ones to encourage more recycling. You’ll reduce your garbage removal costs.
- Purchase environmentally friendly office products - We’ve recently started purchasing our office products through Frogfile Office Essentials, and get a lot of comments from clients about our recycled cardboard binders and file folders. There are all kinds of products available, from recycled paper, to organic fair trade coffee, to natural cleaners. The only limit seems to be your imagination.
- Market your commitment to the environment and to your employees - VanCity, a Vancouver-based credit union, boldly trumpets in its marketing materials that they are the first North American-based financial institution to be “carbon neutral”. Vancity continues to be included in top employer lists for both Canada and BC.
These are only a few examples of how you can “green” your human resources practices and set a positive corporate culture. When employees see that you’re taking initiative to reduce your business’ carbon footprint, it can have a positive impact on your work “environment”. With skilled labour shortages and tough economic conditions, your company needs every competitive advantage to win the war for talent.
Copyright 2008 Clear HR Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.