How can HR support the achievement of sustainability targets? 

The solutions to sustainability can only be found by drawing on the strengths of every group in society.

Many organisations are currently pushing towards sustainability as a corporate function or at least a discipline within compliance, and sustainability is increasingly included in the target agreements of top executives, particularly through environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics. For 83% of global organisations, ESG is a top priority, with ESG goals connected to corporate purpose (Global Talent Trends).

Embracing sustainability requires a paradigm shift.

Most organisations face a cultural barrier to making sustainability an integral part of their core beliefs and behaviours.

It is a significant challenge for HR to ensure organisational sustainability goals are embedded in the corporate purpose, culture and objectives. In our experience, organisations often ignore the wide sweeping impact of social sustainability within ESG and instead focus solely on environmental sustainability, particularly electric car schemes and carbon neutral investments.

The focus on environmental sustainability overlooks the power that DEI can bring to firm-wide sustainability solutions. Protecting the environment from negative human impact is an ongoing, complex challenge that requires the contributions of every group in society. We all need to contribute, and to do this we all need to be heard if we are to overcome the drivers of issues such as the climate crisis and resource overconsumption.

It is not just a numbers game. Creating solutions requires a diversity of thought, culture and background, as well as the inclusion of all sources of talent. For example, rethinking carbon-emitting processes and inventing sustainable new energy alternatives will require the incorporation of different mind-sets and ideas. This requires not only the presence of diverse types of talent but an inclusive culture that enables everybody’s voice to be heard. We are seeing diverse solutions from localised groups to tackle their own challenges, but as global organisations, a global mind-set is needed.

From an organisational perspective, achieving workplace representation that mirrors society enables a better understanding of the needs, desires and views of customers and other stakeholders. This is particularly acute on issues such as the climate crisis, for which views are constantly evolving. As customers approach solutions and products differently, based upon how climate change impacts their homes and ways of life, understanding diverse needs will be vital for sustainable business growth.

Sustainability goes hand-in-hand with DEI, and requires a holistic approach to considering environmental sustainability targets.

So how can you embed diversity, equity & inclusion to tackle your sustainability goals? We recommend a 4-step approach to understanding your current challenges and taking action:

  1. Diagnose
    Understand the current data to focus priorities on developing a diverse workforce.
  2. Engage
    Listen to the employee voice to highlight any issues in psychological safety, ensuring employees feel able to express their opinions and experience without fear of negative consequences.
  3. Take Action
    Redesign policies and practices to ensure DEI is embedded throughout the organisation.
  4. Accountability
    Incorporate DEI into existing ESG metrics.
Lucy Brown
Lucy Iremonger
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