How HR can promote sustainability

Sara Holmberg
April 21, 2023
How HR can promote sustainability

We believe that everyone can make a positive impact on the planet. So let’s talk about a topic close to our hearts - sustainability.

Working in HR, you have a long list of key dates to celebrate and promote – and perhaps sometimes sustainability can feel like a box-checking activity, far removed from pressing daily concerns of running your HR.

Unless you’re personally passionate and invested in environmental issues, it might also be difficult to connect sincerely with the sustainability initiatives you take on.

But we're here to help. In this blog, we explains why sustainability matters and how can you drive practical change across the organisation?

A strong stance improves hiring and retention

Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey 2022 leaves little doubt as to the importance of environmental and sustainability issues to millennial and Gen Z workers. (Together, these two groups make up around half of today’s workforce – a proportion that’s growing constantly). Just look at these findings:

• 80% of Gen Zs and 77% of millennials say they feel a personal responsibility to create positive social and environmental impact

• 78% of Gen Zs and 74% of millennials say they are concerned about climate change and want to see more action from businesses to address it

• 70% of Gen Zs and 66% of millennials say they would be willing to take a pay cut to work for a company that aligns with their values

Our latest report Fighting Turnover also found that lack of trust or meaningfulness is a major reason to why employees decide to quit, and Gen Z stated that they want to work for businesses that values ethics and social responsibility.

So, irrespective of the moral imperative to act on environmental issues, stats like this show that organisations that prioritise sustainability are better placed to attract, engage, and retain talent.


HR outcomes aren’t the only reason to care about environmental issues. Organisations that genuinely prioritise ESG are more likely to outperform their peers in the long-term. Even tough,  many are turning their backs on this value, by focussing purely on compliance:

“Companies that view environmental, social, and governance initiatives as an exercise in compliance rather than a source of competitive advantage, are leaving substantial value on the table.”

The you got the stats to back you up:

• 80% of investors believe that companies should prioritise environmental issues in their business strategies…but only 28% of executives believe their company's ESG strategy is adequately integrated into overall business strategy.

• 71% of executives believe companies that treat ESG (Environmental, social, and governance) as a strategic priority will outperform peers long-term…but 65% of executives believe their company's ESG strategy is primarily focused on compliance.

The upshot is, focussing on sustainability isn’t just a fluffy nice-to-have or a compliance-based chore. Environmental and sustainability issues are fundamental drivers for the business – and HR can add enormous value by supporting the C-suite on this.

ideas to make a positive impact

Here are some ideas you can copy with pride to foster a culture of ESG impact.

1. Work across other departments – and the C-suite – to set ESG goals that align to business strategy and create a regular comms program talking about ESG across the organisation, so employees know where you stand, what you’re doing, and how they can get involved.

2. Educate employees around ESG, encourage individual buy-in and create excitement around environment and sustainability issues by hosting guest speakers, workshops, webinars, or training sessions. You can also create resources (eg, a toolkit)to educate employees to make more environmentally-friendly choices at work and home.

3. Create a program of green initiatives including volunteer days, community challenges, company-wide sustainability competitions, and environmental pledges. Also, encourage employees to take ownership over ESG, by establishing employee groups that create community and offer a platform for environmental activity.

4. Integrate ESG activity into your reward and recognition programme.

5. Encourage hybrid or remote working to minimise employees’ travel impact.

6. Make environmentally-sound choices across your offices, like ensuring good recycling practices, investing into motion controlled lighting, and using eco-friendly supplies.

7. Reconsider the ‘swag’ you buy for events, onboarding, and office celebrations – less pens, more tree planting, perhaps? Less ‘stuff’, more experiences?

8. Choose suppliers who align with your ESG commitments. Demand better from everyone you work with.

9. Donate or run fundraisers for environmental causes – and consider matching employee donations too.

10. Invite employee feedback into ESG regularly, to prove this is an important priority for you. (For instance, if you’re using our employee engagement platform to collect real-time feedback, you can easily add regular questions around sustainability).

Did you know?

We all have to share a planet that’s increasingly in crisis. Earth Day on April 22nd, gives you the perfect opportunity to focus on your environmental movement and sustainable business as a whole. You won't be alone, because  EARTHDAY.ORG is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement. The organisation works with over 150,000 partners in 192 countries to diversify, educate and activate the global environmental movement.


Making real progress means integrating sustainability properly and sincerely into how the organisation operates, not just paying lip service. That’s not just the right thing for the planet – it’s the right thing for your people and organisation too.

Winningtemp’s employee engagement platform helps you better understand and serve your people – to build a winning culture. Watch this two-minute video to see how it works.

With a strong background in legal and HR consulting in firms such as Fingerprint Cards, PwC and Flex, she joined Winningtemp as Head of HR in August 2021. Sara is passionate about people and believes that the future of work and HR is moving towards an approach where employees feel valued and have the tools to reach their potential. To achieve this aim, she’s focused on working to give employees their desired level of autonomy within their roles, creating a rewards system that focuses on recognising and understanding the needs of employees, from financial welfare to mental health. Additionally, her commitment to wellbeing is shown by her work as a board member at Räddningsmissionen, a Swedish charity working for social rights ensuring everyone has access to a dignified life.

About the author
Sara Holmberg

Focusing on people

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