The post today is from a long term friend of mine, now based in Australia, who wishes to remain anonymous. “She” is an environmentalist, social justice advocate, communications specialist and Mum. She has become a recent renewable energy junkie and is desperate to preserve the planet for our kids and grandkids. She is also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met!
Thought your company had green credentials? Think again…
How HR professionals can help save our planet
Are you an HR professional who thinks your organization is doing enough by switching off internal lights after hours and encouraging double-sided printing?
If so, I’ve got bad news for you: It’s not enough.
That is, it’s not enough if you genuinely want to make a difference.
And here’s the worse news. Which you probably won’t want to hear: our environment is in a bad way. A terrifyingly bad way…
The overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists are now as certain that humans are causing climate change, as they are that smoking causes lung cancer.
They’re also certain that time is fast running out to act.
On top of that, various reports from highly regarded organizations show that the Earth appears to be in the midst of a mass extinction of life, both in our oceans and on land.
So why aren’t you aware of how bad things are? It all starts to make sense when you understand the enormous pressure our politicians are under from fossil fuel companies.
But I believe there’s another reason too.
We are so busy and under pressure from looming deadlines at work, from the fear of losing our jobs and from trying to get ahead that we tend not to pay enough attention to what’s going on in the outside world.
Recently I asked someone if they had a good understanding of what’s happening in the world. Their response was: “I don’t have a clue about what’s going on. I’m too busy getting slaughtered at work.”
It seems to me that at the most critical time in human history, our preoccupation with work and the daily grind is inhibiting truly meaningful conversation.
There is however good news.
Despite what you may have heard, renewable energy offers enormous hope. It’s viable, cheap, and ready to go. The more I learn about what can be achieved by combining renewable energy and energy efficiency the more excited I get about the future. Things get even more exciting when we also reduce our consumption and minimize our waste.
Add to that getting rid of all subsidies – including fossil fuel subsidies which amount to an eye-popping $1.9 trillion worldwide – and renewables have it in the bag.
These are not impossible problems, yet. But they’re problems we have to act on very quickly.
And that’s where you, as an HR professional, come in.
Human Resource Departments play a critical role in ensuring that companies’ corporate social responsibility programs truly count.
The problem is, most companies currently aren’t so good at this. They only seem to go part way – over-promoting small successes – and not tackling the really big issues.
It never ceases to amaze me how companies that promote energy efficiency inside the building are still lit up like Christmas trees outside at night.
It’s a basic principle of business that organizations should monitor their risks, opportunities and threats. It’s business 101.
Recent reports indicate that failing to act now on climate change will be enormously costly for the environment and for the global economy. On that basis, dealing with the major threats to our environment is a matter of self-preservation for your business.
Some companies have cottoned on to this. Big business – including giants such as General Motors, Apple, Pepsi and Kellogg’s – are getting in on the climate change fighting action. It has also been reported that more than half of the Fortune 100 companies have set goals for their own greenhouse gas reductions.
So what would my advice be to someone in HR?
Don’t be fully satisfied with just the simple stuff. It’s time to get real. To get tough.
The reality is that half-hearted behavior won’t help us overcome the greatest challenges humanity, and our planet, have ever faced.
So start reading, start researching, start finding out what people and organizations are doing to combat these terrible problems, because there’s a lot of really great stuff happening. Innovative stuff.
If I were to give you a tip, it would be to look at your staff superannuation scheme and your bank – and ask them whether they invest in fossil fuel projects. You may be shocked to find that your business is inadvertently supporting climate-destroying projects, or projects which damage native forests or even the Great Barrier Reef.
Pulling money from investment funds and banks that invest in those kinds of projects is known as ‘divestment’. Divestment can sometimes be politically sensitive, as the ANU (Australian National University) recently discovered. However, the question you have to ask yourself is whose business do you want to protect? Presumably it’s yours.
And make sure you talk. Talk to your managers, to your staff and to other HR professionals. Get the conversation going. And start taking real action.
Don’t think you can’t make a difference. HR professionals can be key drivers of change. If HR professionals stop accepting the bare minimum and start encouraging meaningful action, they can encourage a behavioural shift that can truly help change the world.
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