Advocating for More Sustainable Business Practices
By Jori Hamilton
Image Source: Unsplash
December 10 2021 - Sustainability is an important part of all business practices. Sustainable business practices help employees feel connected to their work and will drive more talented employees to the business. In fact, 51% of the workforce say they won't work for a company that doesn't have strong social and environmental commitments, and a further 74% said their job was more fulfilling when it had a positive impact on the world.
Clearly, employees value sustainability and are looking to find businesses that align with their values. But what can you do as a Human Resources professional to advocate for more sustainable business practices in the workplace?
Rethink Company Benefits
Many companies offer perks like health insurance, company cars, and gym memberships. Oftentimes, these perks and benefits produce harmful carbon emissions and work against the sustainability commitments your company has made. As such, you should advocate for more sustainable perks the next time benefit programs are discussed at your workplace.
This is particularly important if your company's current benefit programs include carbon-emitting incentives like company and commercial cars. The EPA reports that the average passenger vehicle emits around 4.6 metric tonnes of carbon per year and that diesel and petrol cars also produce small amounts of other fossil fuels like methane and nitrous oxide.
Your company may also operate a fleet of commercial vehicles. These commercial vehicles can produce significant amounts of fossil fuel and will damage your eco-friendly efforts. Switching to an electric fleet will save the company you work for 18 - 45% on maintenance costs, and will eliminate an average of 15,000 gallons per vehicle.
As an HR professional, you are in a unique position to influence decision-making and benefit programs. This is because management typically consults with the HR department before implementing new benefits. The HR department has a clearer image of employee motivation and can give useful insights into effective benefits programs. So, the next time benefits are discussed in the workplace, be sure to advocate for sustainability - it will save the company money, and will display the business' commitment to the environment.
User Experience + Sustainability
In the United States, 74% of adults use computers for work. This means that millions of employees spend most of their working days interacting with software in a digital environment. However, as our usage increases, so does our carbon footprint.
Studies have found that 3.7% of all global emissions are attributable to digital technology, and researchers advocate for more sustainable user experience (UX) design practices.
As an HR professional, it is unlikely that you will be directly involved in UX design. However, you might be part of the hiring and assessment process. In which case, you can look for UX designers who prioritize sustainability in their operations and can encourage your current UX designers to consider the following sustainable UX practices:
- Research: good UX utilizes user research. By gathering data about users and assessing competition, your UX designers will design the most efficient interface possible. This will streamline usage and bring down carbon costs.
- Assess the Impact: climate-conscious UX designers should compress file sizes, seek to reduce the number of clicks it takes to navigate information, and should identify areas of business operations where digital features could replace carbon-emitting physical interactions.
- Reduce On-Site Data: reducing image sizes and mapping an intuitive user journey will make your company's site more user-friendly - it will also reduce the bandwidth used by your site. This will support your sustainability efforts and reduce your overall carbon footprint.
As our workplaces become more digitized, it is vital that sustainability assessments are made and that the most environmentally-friendly UX design is implemented. HR departments can do their bit by hiring sustainability-focused UX designers and by supporting current UX designers who wish to reduce carbon emissions.
The Little Things
Sustainability is all about assessing current operations and making small changes to business practices. Here's a quick list of sustainable practices your business could implement tomorrow:
- Reduce Paper Use: Google Docs and online sticky notes can reduce your paper usage, improve collaboration, clear up your workflow, and help you find creative solutions to problems. Reducing your paper usage will also bring down your waste and overall carbon footprint.
- Reassess Office Supplies: the next time your office needs a resupply, opt for refillable pens, decomposable notebooks, and eco-friendly printing ink.
- Measure Your Carbon Footprint: if you don't record your current carbon footprint, you won't know if your sustainable business practices are making a difference. You can record carbon usage easily through online calculators.
- Fund Eco-Initiatives: many national organizations committed to sustainability are well funded by the government and big donors. However, local organizations are in desperate need of funding. You can help by introducing a workplace donation scheme.
If you want to recruit people who stick around and increase employee satisfaction, you should advocate for more sustainable businesses in the workplace. As an HR professional, you are in a unique position to highlight the increasing interest in climate-conscious business practices and can leverage your motivation-expertize to reduce carbon emissions and increase carbon-conscious incentives.
Jori Hamilton is a freelance writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity, recruitment, HR, and marketing strategies. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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