Dedicating funds and other resources for environmental projects, instituting rewards and recognition for contributions towards sustainability can also be initiated by the leader. The leader can walk the talk by demonstrating environment friendly behaviour by reducing wastage of electricity, paper and other resources. These savings may not amount to much but as actions speak louder than words they go on to show that the leader believes in sustainability and acts on it at a personal level.
Employees’ role in encouraging sustainability
Employees can play an important role in promoting sustainability at the workplace. It is seen that individuals may be very conscious of sustainability and waste management at home but this behaviour does not always translate into environment-friendly behaviour at the place of work. At homes we have electricity meters which help in monitoring consumption but in an office employees to not receive individualized bills for energy and paper consumption thereby diffusing responsibility towards resource usage.
The idea is to make all the employees understand the environmental implications of their work behaviour and improvise ways to reduce/ reuse/ recycle resources. The collective impact of sustainable behaviour can reap rich dividends for organisations in the form of savings and reduction in environmental footprints. Organisations are now trying to collaborate with NGOs and other environment management organisations to sensitise employees on sustainability matters. There are instances in which employees have initiated waste management, car-pooling and recycling of resources on their own and this has inspired peers to follow in their footsteps. Organisations can encourage sustainability among employees by organising sustainability events, suggestion schemes and projects to help the employees see their contribution beyond the technical domain.
As the general awareness on sustainability is increasing, we find that sustainability is becoming an important contributor to the employer brand and talent is naturally choosing organisations that value sustainability. Some employees may have a natural propensity towards environmental issues. Organisations can appoint them as sustainability champions in their organisations. They can act as role models and also provide momentum to the sustainability movement inside the organisation. The champions can help create sustainability converts that is employees who adopt sustainability by understanding its importance.
Sustainability is also being called a super strategy for promoting employee engagement. Organisations can get employees to connect by making them see how their contribution is significant by establishing a connection between work behaviour and sustainability.
The year long struggle with Covid has already made us realise how important the harmony between the environment and humanity is for us to survive as a species in times to come. The total reliance on technology to work has led to considerable savings in commuting time and costs. Though this situation was forced upon us, it demonstrated that this sustainable form of work is definitely a viable alternative. Organisations should now change their mindset of — “if I don’t see you, you are not working” and make work from home (WFH) a practice. It is not only going to cut on the costs of operations but would have a very positive effect on the environment in the long run.
Organisations such as SalesForce, BitPay and Square are looking at the permanent work from home as long term options. It may not be possible for all the organisations to do so, but practicing WFH to the extent possible in going to increase employee well-being as well as environmental wellbeing. Organisation can also have innovative ways of making employees commit to sustainability by having a personal/departmental sustainability action plans in which employees would plan their sustainability activities voluntarily. Institutionalising sustainability can help get employee ownership for sustainability. The idea is to making sustainability integral to daily work behaviour rather than making it into an event which is celebrated in the form of environmental day or week and forgotten as soon as it is over.
Soni Agrawal and Roma Puri recently published Green HRM: A Climate Conscious Route to Triple Bottom with SAGE Publications India