Green HRM: Strategically Using the 9R’s for Organizational Competitive Advantage

Has your business experienced financial challenges in 2021?  The pandemic has added expenses to businesses.  Whether it is for testing, adding plexiglass, cleaning products, safety gear, etc.  Staying open during the pandemic was not cheap!  Additionally, if you needed to adapt to a remote environment, you might also have had the expense of implementing new technologies.

Have you had a hard time attracting, retaining, and engaging talent during this last year?  While there may be more candidates out there than usual, we can’t deny that it was a struggle.  We also can’t deny that people make the business a success.  You want to be able to compete in the market.  You want to keep innovating, keeping your edge. 

Are you also challenged with the increased importance of corporate environmental responsibilities?  There have been recent changes in labour laws, heightened needs for charity or volunteer work, and various activities of focus in water conservation, trees, energy, and waste management.  Corporations have been concentrating on new sustainability opportunities to meet these demands. 

Using this Triple Bottom Line, I will provide you with answers to all these questions, solve these problems for you and provide more context.  You will learn to not only survive but thrive well into the future.

What is Green HRM?

Green Human Resources Management (GHRM) can be defined simply as Human Resource practices of environmental management.  However, a broader definition is the relationships between organizational activities that impact the natural environment and the commitment, policy, planning, implementation, measurement and evaluation, review and improvement of HR systems that fit with organization’s culture and long-term goals.

Human Resource (HR) Managers can become the driver of environmental sustainability within the organization.  Strategic GHRM can give organizations a competitive advantage. 

How to Implement Green HRM?

HR must have support for these systems from the top.  This commitment should be documented in the policies and practices and communicated as part of the bigger corporate strategies and goals.  Success also requires support from the entire organization.

The policies and practices are then included in all HR systems from recruitment and selection, training and development, total rewards, corporate culture, etc.   HR should pursue going paperless as much as possible in all these areas by using apps, software, and e-hr systems.

In the recruitment and selection, the HR team will look for individuals committed to their values.  Also, where travel may have been required in past, video, or online interviews are done instead.  (This would also extend to other areas where business travel would have happened before and use teleconferencing options as an alternative to reduce the business travel.)

Training and development of existing employees as part of the implementation would be online or by teleconferencing.  This training would educate employees on how the organization wants to reduce environmental damage, ways they will implement to do that, and encourage them to find other ways they can contribute to helping the business achieve this goal.  This new knowledge is aimed to foster employees to be innovative with other ways to support the business.

Reward systems and incentives help the organization increase motivation levels with these new initiatives.  These rewards can be for increased efficiencies, reduced waste, teamwork on environmental projects, etc.  Rewards can be compensation but can also be lifestyle benefits and gifts like bikes or green agendas.  Managerial bonuses can also ensure the focus on these performance outcomes. 

The new organizational culture created through GHRM evolves into an important aspect of the manager’s role.  There are values and behaviours expected of all employees.  These are incorporated into new employee orientation so that they are aware right from the start of their employment.

Since this is part of a larger corporate strategy, let’s look at how adding the 9R’s in the organization can help all employees contribute towards these organizational goals.

Adding the 9R’s for Strategic GHRM:

At one time, I remember there was 5R’s.  Then there was 7R’s.  Now there is 9R’s.  I explain each and give some ideas on how to incorporate these in a workplace.

1. Rethink – Think about what type of workplace you want to be and what this means for the environment.

HR should start by conducting an internal environment and energy audit of the organization.  Mark areas that you are not happy with and then start to formulate a plan for how to make these changes in the organization. 

2. Refuse – Think from the beginning, before you buy, and be prepared to not buy at all. 

The organization may buy less of something i.e., creating minimum and maximum levels for products.  The organization may also stop buying products that are harmful for the environment and instead buy products that do the least harm i.e., replacing toxic chemical cleaning products with plant-based cleaning products.

3. Reduce – Buy products that use little or no packaging and that last longer.  Consider borrowing instead of buying, and compost.  Items that are no longer needed are donated or sold. 

If your business has multiple locations in one city, consider buying one and having all locations use it i.e., snow blower or lawn mower.  Make conscious choices and ask departments questions about whether they really need something to make informed decisions.

4. Reuse – Upcycle instead of throwing away.

Reusing items, the business already has rather than opting for single use products forms a big part of a sustainable workplace.  There are so many great ways to do this i.e., having reusable coffee cups in the break room, have towels in the bathroom instead of paper towels and reusing boxes or glass.

5. Re-Gift – Pass on items to someone who will enjoy it. 

Consider gifting items to your staff instead of keeping the clutter or disposing of it.  You can create a space within the workplace where these items are kept.  Give the area a fun name, like “Gift Corner” or “Fancy Things for You” and have people help themselves.  After a certain period of time, ensure that the items are donated so as to not create clutter.

6. Repair – This is another way to upcycle.  Before you buy new, could the item be repaired? 

Create an organizational culture of repair.  We have become known as a “throwaway society”.  More items end up in the landfill than needs to.  This harms the environment and uses more of the earth’s resources to make new items.  Your organization can help conserve by participating in a “repair movement”.  This could apply to electronics like computers, printers, or photo-copy machines. 

7. Rent – When you do need to get something new, consider renting rather than buying it.

The organization may consider hiring someone to do what they need or making friends with a neighbouring business that has what you are looking for.  This saves the organization money while also reducing the number of products you own and must store.  Office space is being rented by the hour and has become much more popular in recent years.

8. Recycle – Put things back into the waste stream to be used again for something else. 

This includes things like glass, plastic, tins, paper, cardboard, and garden waste.  That’s right composting is included in this.  Consider having a compost bin in your lunchroom and using the organic waste to fertilize your garden beds. 

9. Rot – For items that can’t be reused, regifted, repaired or recycled, can you put them in your compost?

There are lots of items in addition to food that can be put into a composter.  For example, shredded newspapers, cardboard and paper or yard waste, wood shavings or sawdust.  Also, plants or used napkins and toilet paper.

Benefits or Strategic GHRM:

These systems are proven to improve employee morale, providing the business with a stronger public image, and increasing consumer/customer confidence in the business.  Employee loyalty increases and enhances brand recognition, positioning the organization as an employer of choice.  The organization will see an increase in workforce productivity, efficiency, motivation, and employee retention.  These are just a few of the many advantages and benefits an organization can have by implementing and developing such programs.

Going back to the beginning, being green helps businesses with their Triple Bottom Line.  It will improve your financial position, help you to attract, retain and engage talent, and meet the demands for a sustainable organization.  Use GHRM as a solution to the challenges you have been facing over the last couple of years!

Can you share some other GHRM ideas?

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Live with meaning and balance!

Laura

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