MG: I'll try that. Others?
AS: PepsiCo has worked to "create a solid connection between our talent strategies and our sustainability goals," according to a senior executive with whom we spoke, and has used its Performance with Purpose initiatives to attract top talent and increase diversity. IBM has coordinated sustainability and human resources both within the company, in creating corporate values, and also in its "Smart Planet" branding.
MG: In the book, you write, "some of today's best-run companies are turning traditional HR into sustainable HR." Can you define "sustainable HR"?
AS: To simplify, HR needs to get up and stretch its muscles by incorporating sustainability into its traditional roles of managing HR processes, from recruitment to separation; developing organizational capacity; leading or facilitating culture change; and helping to motivate employees.
Sustainable HR also means that HR leverages sustainability to advance HR objectives such as winning the war for talent, creating diversity in the workforce, developing and ensuring that employees are happy, healthy and productive and that they reach their potential.
The "centerfold" of the book is detailed chart that compares traditional HR to sustainable HR.
MG: I hear so much about employee engagement around sustainability. Can you provide a tip or two for either HR or sustainability execs who want to step up their efforts to draw up upon the collective wisdom and energy of their workforce?
AS: First, they should team up and take inventory: What's the company doing on sustainability and can it be used more effectively to help HR reach some of its traditional objectives? In turn, how can HR help the company reach its sustainability objectives?
Second, examine the connection between sustainability, employee engagement (in the HR sense of "commitment and motivation") and business results, something I call the "Golden Triangle." This unexplored business case for sustainability could create gains in productivity, customer satisfaction, innovation and other business drivers.
Third, consider a culture assessment to see how your existing culture does or does not support sustainability. Many companies are struggling with how to embed sustainability because some part of the company's culture (often underlying assumptions held by managers) is getting in the way. It's important to have a clear understanding of any gaps between your objectives and the hidden beliefs of your employees. Otherwise you are running into the wind.
HR image by Dustin Ausdemore via Shutterstock.