Josh Gill, chief executive at Everflow, argues that all businesses should become ‘purpose-led’ employers as a way to secure and retain talent.
- Two issues ranked high on the agenda for almost all UK companies: attract/retain talent and drive forward with wider net zero goals.
- Rather than viewing these as disparate issues, business leaders should recognise the value of becoming ‘purpose-led’ and better integrate sustainability into all aspects of the business.
- While often overlooked in net zero strategising, HR professionals are in fact well-positioned to effect real change on this front and help employers earn their sustainability credentials.
Entering 2023, two issues ranked high on the agenda for almost all UK businesses: attract/retain talent and drive forward with wider net zero goals. A recent survey of 1,500 business leaders by Boston Consulting Group found that over one-fifth (22%) listed staff shortages as a major threat to their business in 2023 while 39% reaffirmed their commitment to prioritising environmental sustainability even in an economic downturn.
Rather than viewing these as disparate issues, it is time business leaders recognised how becoming a ‘purpose-led’ employer and better integrating sustainability into all aspects of the business, can be a key driver in securing and retaining talent. One way for employers to achieve this would be to play a more active role in encouraging sustainable behaviour amongst team members.
This entails developing employee-focused sustainability initiatives that help them to reduce their environmental impact and secure cost savings, while also increasing their engagement in the business’ net-zero ambitions. While often overlooked in net zero strategising, HR professionals are in fact well-positioned to effect real change on this front and help employers earn their sustainability credentials.
The overlooked role of HR in tackling the climate crisis
There are many under-exploited ways in which HR can support a business in meeting its net-zero obligations.
Firstly, they can develop training programs and awareness campaigns to educate team members about sustainable practices, the importance of environmental conservation, and how individual actions can contribute to the company’s wider net-zero goals. By providing colleagues with the right knowledge and tools to adopt more sustainable behaviours, HR can drive positive change at the grassroots level.
Secondly, HR can work closely with senior management to incorporate environmental metrics into employee evaluations. This might involve recognising and rewarding team members who actively contribute to sustainable practices, motivating others to follow suit. Businesses might consider establishing initiatives such as a ‘green team’ or ‘sustainability champions’ to foster engagement.
Furthermore, HR’s responsibility for hiring positions allows them to integrate sustainability into recruitment and talent management processes. This might involve focusing on attracting and selecting candidates who share the organisation’s sustainable values and incorporating sustainability-related competencies into job descriptions and performance metrics.
Other HR policies that directly impact the environment include offering flexible working arrangements to reduce employees’ carbon footprint through minimised commuting. Along with more common ‘bike to work’ schemes, within Everflow, our People & Culture team launched a car share matching scheme and an EV salary sacrifice scheme to help colleagues cut back on the environmental costs of commuting.
Encouraging employee involvement in sustainability initiatives is crucial. Through HR departments, businesses might consider conducting surveys or placing suggestion boxes around the office to gather feedback on how the organisation might improve its environmental performance.
Within Everflow, the People & Culture team conduct annual employee surveys to understand how team members perceive our environmental and social efforts and gain suggestions. We’ve also established cross-departmental groups to provide a forum where they feel comfortable to challenge and add to our plans and initiatives.
Cashing in your ‘purpose-led’ credentials
If done authentically and effectively, a purpose-led approach can help to enhance an organisation’s brand reputation and attract eco-conscious customers — leading to increased business opportunities. In terms of productivity gains, employees have been shown to be far more motivated and engaged when they feel they work for a business with a larger purpose.
Many team members – especially younger people – are increasingly concerned about environmental issues and are seeking purposeful work that aligns with their values. By promoting sustainable practices, employers clearly demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility, which can help to attract and retain environmentally conscious talent.
The benefits of becoming a purpose-led employer
Becoming a purpose-led employer dedicated to integrated sustainability not only benefits the organisation, but also plays a crucial role in encouraging team members to participate in the net-zero transition both at home and in the office.
Everflow, as the UK’s first carbon-neutral water supplier, practices what it preaches, and our People & Culture team goes beyond the norm to encourage sustainable behaviour amongst employees. We advise our SME customers to take similar bold initiatives.
We all have a part to play in the net-zero transition – businesses and employees alike – and HR professionals should not abdicate their ability to guide and shape workforce behaviour for the better.
The opinions of guest authors are their own and do not necessarily represent those of SG Voice.