Climate Change the role of HR to reduce your business environmental impact.
Climate change has been talked about for many years but there now appears to have been shift in the urgency for change with governments across the world.
But do we really understand what is climate change is, what causes it and what can businesses and specifically the HR department do to make a difference?
What is climate change?
There’s so much science behind climate change that’s its essay to get lost in terminology, statistics and mathematical models.
According to the MET office , climate change is the large-scale, long-term shift in the planets weather patterns and average temperatures.
The Earth depends on a balance of gases in the atmosphere to create a ‘blanket’ around the earth referred to as the greenhouse effect. This blanket maintains an average temperature in order for life to thrive.
The balance of gases in the atmosphere is a delicate one. If the greenhouse blanket is too thin, the Earth would become too cold, if too thick it would become too hot. A shift either way can have a catastrophic impact on life on Earth.
What is the main cause of climate change?
Simply put, people! Science tells us that current climate change is a man-made occurrence and not a natural phenomenon.
Since the industrial revolution over 200 years ago humans have created a significant increase in the density of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous monoxide in the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels, large scale deforestation and an increase of cattle and livestock to provide food for an ever growing population.
Other human activities such as how we use land, traveling by aeroplane and more obscure things such as the production of cement is also directly increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
As a direct result of this increased build up in greenhouse gases, too much heat from the sun is being trapped causing the planet to heat up.
As a result of an increase in global temperature it is inevitable that there will be changes to ecosystems such as the rising of ocean levels and an increase in ocean acidity (caused by the ocean absorbing too much carbon dioxide). This in turn causes noticeable changes in global weather patterns.
In the UK we’ve already experienced a direct outcome of climate change with warmer and wetter Winters and hotter and direr Summers with ,more frequent periods of more extreme and intense weather.
For example, severe and extreme rainfall has resulted in more flooding not just in coastal regions but also inland due to sudden rises water levels in rivers.
None of this is new. We have been talking about climate change and how our behaviours are having a negative impact for many years, I recall doing a study for my A-Levels in the 80’s on the impact of acid rain in Scandinavia caused by the burning of fossil fuels in the UK.
It does however appear that Climate changes is being looked at with more seriously and with more urgency by the worlds governments than ever before which will see a shift in policy and funding towards climate change.
What can we do as a business to make a difference?
Unfortunately, there’s no way of reducing these greenhouse gases quickly as they can ‘live’ in our atmosphere for hundreds of years. This means that even if we stop all greenhouse gas emissions today, the planet will still continue to warm, albeit much slower than if we do nothing at all.
There are however many things a business can do to start making a difference and reduce their impact on the environment for example:
- Reduce the amount of energy they use – turn off lights and equipment such computers and printers during none office hours.
- Switch to renewable energy suppliers
- Choose sustainable suppliers for office infrastructure and equipment
- Reduce Waste by reusing resources (for example reuse unwanted none sensitive printed paper to make notes)
- Encourage more environmentally friendly travel to work options
- Use technology to reduce impact – allow employees work from home a day a week to cut down on travelling etc.
All of these changes are relatively small that can be implemented quickly without adding significant cost to the business.
How can HR help?
Whilst the organisation can make changes to reduce their impact on the environment, the key is to change people’s attitudes and behaviours to adopt a more climate aware workforce.
HR can drive this shift by introducing Climate driven policies and goals within the businesses.. This includes:
- Create an environmentally aware working culture within the organisation.
- Keep employees updated, informed and educated about Climate and Environmental changes and how they can help
- Target environmentally responsible applicants when recruiting for new employees
- Providing a clear and progressive Climate change policy and enforcing it. Building Climate related responsibilities into Appraisals and performance reviews
- Introducing Climate and Environmental targets as part of staff bonuses, especially at executive levels.
- Use online calculators (such as carbonfootprint.com) to estimate the carbon footprint of your business
- Introduce flexible working policies focused on the environmental impacts of employees travelling to the office 5 days per week.
- Review the need for travelling between sites (especially if flights are required)
- Provide a facility for an employee questionnaire asking your workforce for suggestions on how to reduce the impact on the environment (find out how)
- Train employees on how to use equipment properly thus prolonging its life. Then repair rather than replace where possible.
What are the Benefits?
Whether you believe climate change is important or not, surely it’s better to do something than carry on as we are.
Still not convinced, then look at the benefits from a business point of view.
Implementing many environmentally sound policies will have a direct impact on the business in a variety of ways:
- Turning off none essential equipment during none working ours will reduce your business energy bills.
- Reducing waste by reusing and recycling will reduce costs.
- Promoting an environmentally aware business ethic will attract better more conscientious applicants making for a better working environment
- Reducing travel between offices will reduce costs generated by reimbursing travel expenses.
Public opinion on how serious climate change really is has been split for many years between those who don’t think it’s a real issue and those who prophesise a man-made apocalypse.
In the past 18 months it does feel that climate change is for the first time being taken really seriously at much higher levels across the globe with much more urgency. This suggests that yes, just like Covid, Climate Change is real and we should be concerned.
The effects of global warming become more apparent to everyone year on year with more severe and extreme weather patterns that we experience and the setting of new extreme weather records every year . World leaders are shifting their attitudes towards climate change and with more urgency, whether it’s enough only time will tell.
Whilst it is not something we can fix overnight, we as businesses and individuals can begin to make a difference. Making fundamental changes to our we use our planets resources could slow down global warming and eventually return the Earth’s temperature to normal for our future generations.
These are just some of the common suggestions of how businesses and employees can make a difference, by adopting many of these approaches will increase awareness of our environmental impact and identify new and cleaner ways we can operate as an organisation and as people.
If you would like to learn more about YouManageHR or how PeopleFirstHR can help your organisation please contact us on 01242 663974 or via email enquiries@Peoplefirsthr.co.uk or click the button below to request more information and one of our consultants will be in touch shortly.
PeopleFirstHR have been working on Human Resource Information Systems for over 20 years and with People Inc. and YouManage since 2011. Our experience means we can provide a common-sense approach to providing you with a comprehensive HR system to help you record and maintain your employee data.
If you would like to learn more about YouManageHR or how PeopleFirstHR can help your organisation please contact us on 01242 663974 or via email enquiries@Peoplefirsthr.co.uk.