Sustainable Workplaces: Creating a Culture of Environmental Engagement

As energy efficiency becomes even more critical to a business strategy, as well as implementing physical changes to improve it, leaders are now looking to their staff to work sustainably. So it follows that environmental awareness is now a key consideration for Human Resources, as businesses look to encourage energy efficiency, waste reduction and the use of alternative low-carbon forms of transportation.

A growing body of work on Green Human Resource Management (GHRM) now indicates employee’s attitudes and behaviors toward energy issues can be modified through a cluster of HRM policies and practices. However, research also suggests employers may have to initiate and manage a dramatic cultural change in order to achieve the desired environmental awareness in their employees.

Essentially, the pursuit of workplace sustainability is an organizational change issue. For individuals, organizational change comes down to a ‘cognitive process’; how an individual thinks about their work situation. Several studies have indicated that one of the reasons for the failure of programmes, policies and practices promoting workplace sustainability is that senior management ignore or downplay the influence of culture on organizational life. Indeed, if an organization’s culture is particularly established and resistant to modification, it can be a significant barrier to chance.

The issue faced by many organizations is their ability to reconcile the workplace, where social relationships shape individuals interests and motives, with the strategic goals and objectives of the management. Any arbitrary enforcement of new rules and processes, whether they concern environmental policy or not, can be highly contentious if not done so with the cooperation of employees.

Achieving workplace sustainability, therefore, involves more than a technical challenge – as it goes to the very heart of the social relations of work. Business must play a significant role in the transition to a more resource efficient and low-carbon economy.

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