Sustainability in the Workplace

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A number of business experts argue that human resource departments need to take the lead in implementing sustainability programs for their companies. Human resource departments are best positioned to spearhead this type of initiative, they say.

Sustainability generally refers to the efforts made to enhance quality of life for employees, society in general and making efforts to help the environment. To really be effective, these kinds of initiatives, business analysts say, should not be just some afterthought for advertising purposes, but well-thought-out efforts that are part of the company’s overall strategy.

Sustainability programs have many benefits for companies – they can help with employee engagement, they can improve a business’ processes and they can improve the image of the business. They also can actually help add to the bottom line.

While business analysts believe that a firm’s human resources department is in a good position to take the lead with sustainability, not many HR departments are involved with such efforts. Only about six percent of human resource departments responding to a recent survey said they helped to create such programs, but about one-fourth said they are helping to implement them.  Moreover, the survey showed that three-fourths of the organizations responding were involved with some kind of sustainability program.

Companies are implementing sustainability programs for a number of different reasons – to make a contribution to society, to give themselves a financial advantage over their competition, to help the environment, to help save money on their operations, and out of concern for the health and safety of employees.

But there are obstacles that need to be overcome in starting a sustainability program. Some of the most common are the cost, problems with figuring out how to determine the return on investment, lack of support, and a lack of knowledge about how to go about starting such programs.

But the positives are undeniable. Most of the companies that had sustainability programs and responded to the survey cited better employee morale, more efficiency in the workplace, a better image, and higher loyalty among employees as the major benefits.

But to make sustainability most effective, it should be codified into a formal company policy with goals and policies that are connected to the company’s overall strategic planning process.

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