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Green Human Resources Management – Meaning & Definition

Last modified on 18thOctober 2018

What are the meaning, definition, and advantages of Green Human Resources Management? The people working in HR departments, responsible for managing the workforce of companies, have an important role to play in the development of sustainability strategies to protect planet Earth. Let’s find out how.

Green Human Resources Management Definition & Meaning

Simple Green Human Resources Management Definition

Green Human Resources Management (GHRM) can be defined as the set of policies, practices, and systems that stimulate a green behavior of a company’s employees in order to create an environmentally sensitive, resource efficient and socially responsible workplace and overall organization.

Sustainability’s Official Green Human Resources Management Definition

The growing role of sustainable development and, above all, its ecological aspect, in the development of a modern company competitive edge, leads to the popularization of the question of incorporating ecological practices into the area of human resource policy, referred to as Green HRM.

Why is Green Human Resources Management Important?

Sustainability strategies are growing fast within thousand of companies nowadays as an answer to the challenges and catastrophes that climate change has brought, and threatens to bring into our world. In a mainly capitalist world, there no way of denying the importance that companies have in the fight to prevent the temperature of the Earth increasing 1.5º Celcius until the end of this century.  Whilst the support of senior management is essential in a company’s execution of its sustainability management, so is the HR leaders’ strategic positioning of the HR function. But what is Green Human Resources Management really accountable for?

Practices and Policies of Green Human Resources Management


Green Human Resources Management – Recruitment & Job Design

Green Human Resources Management starts even before getting new employees inside the company, during the process of designing or approving, together with other departments, job descriptions (JD) for the newcomers. It is important to have JDs that highlight tasks related to environmental protection or even for job advertisements to mirror a company’s social and ecological concerns.

Green Human Resources Management – Selection Methods

After making the first screening of CVs, HR can make sure that the next steps of the selection process will evaluate the candidates’ aptitude to have green behaviors. An ordinary question about climate change during an interview or a group dynamic that mixes a business case with sustainability issues are two easy ways to understand someone’s degree of ecological awareness. In the end, a green score can also be given to each candidate and added to the overall spreadsheet of scores that will ultimately rank the top candidates.

Green Human Resources Management – HR Operations & Onboarding Process

Technology allows companies to become paperless and for HR this can well start with newcomers. Online portals and folders can be used to archive employees’ documentation such as offer-letters, credentials, CVs or recommendation letters. Not to mention that nowadays CVs are mostly sent throughout the Internet, with no need of being print. It can as well be used with current employees’ health insurance or car contracts, salary or information on other benefits.
Furthermore, when the newcomers first arrive at the office, induction programmes should be designed in such a way as to facilitate the integration of these new employees with the company’s culture of green consciousness. This way, besides presenting the company, its history, culture, departments and so on, these programmes should also highlight the company’s concerns with environmental issues and the green actions being developed both inside the company (in the offices or in other facilities) and along its value-chain together with other stakeholders (more on this topic ahead)

Green Human Resources Management – Performance Management & Appraisals

Performance management (PM) is the process by which employees are prompted to enhance their professional skills that help to achieve the organizational goals and objectives in a better way. Therefore, in order to create a greener company, performance appraisal (PA) systems can include sustainability goals (that come from a sustainability strategy done previously) measured with specific metrics.
While this accountability may be easily done in some jobs, one of the biggest obstacles of green PA is the difficulty to measure and gain data on environmental performance standards across different organizational departments/units. To help overcome this, companies can start using global systems that help them to collect data and at the same time give them advice on how they can become more sustainable and gets them a certificate for that, such as ISO 14001 or the Global Reporting Initiative.
When it comes to the PA of managers, green targets, goals, and responsibilities such as creating green awareness in their teams and encouraging them to get involved in green activities of the company can also be considered. In the end, the ultimate goal of green PM is to have a measurable outcome of an organization’s ability to meet its ecological objectives and targets set forth in the organization’s environmental plans or policies.

Green Human Resources Management – Learning and Development

green human resources management learning
Learning and development is a practice that focuses on developing employees’ skills, knowledge, and attitudes. The goals of green training and development are:

  • To create awareness about the current environmental problems happening worldwide – through newsletters or briefings with environmental organizations from time to time;
  • To educate more employees about working methods that allow to reduce waste, save energy and resources – e.g. recycling, turning lights off or shutting down laptops;
  • To teach more operational employees and business decision makers about processes along the companies’ value-chain that allow to reduce waste, save energy and resources – like applying circular economy to waste or rethinking the sources of energy;
  • To encourage workers to find out opportunities in their jobs to help their companies become more sustainable;
  • Overall, to push for an environmental protection mindset on a company’s workforce, wishing that it acts consciously today and is alert for opportunities to become more sustainable in the future.

Green Human Resources Management – Compensation and Reward management

Green compensation and reward management aim to recognize the contribution of employees in the creation of a more sustainable company. It is the result of the success of employees in their ecological performance appraisal and the proof that a company’s strategic sustainability goals are being mirrored and accomplished (at least up to some degree) from the top to the bottom. There are three different types of rewards:

  • Monetary-based rewards – in the form of salary increase, cash incentives, and bonuses;
  • Non-monetary rewards – sabbaticals, special leaves, discounts or gifts to employees;
  • Recognition-based rewards – highlighting the green contributions of employees through wide publicity, public praise and appreciation of sustainability efforts by the top management.

Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that such a system with effective monetary incentives can be challenging to develop has is it hard to accurately and fairly evaluate environmental behaviors and performance across organizations.

Green Human Resources Management – Employee Relations & Ways of going green

To help to build a sustainable company it is crucial to promote ‘eco-intrapreneurs’ that add value to the organization’s products and/or services with efficient utilization of existing financial, human and natural resources. This often means encouraging employees to get involved and participate in the social and environmental initiatives organized by the company. Some examples of practices that employees could get engaged with are:

  • To cut on carbon emissions: using car-sharing; taking advantage of the free or discounted transportation passes and hybrid/electric cars offered by the company; walking or cycling to work; working from home day once or twice a week;
  • To reduce waste: using porcelain mugs and glasses for tea and coffee; promoting the 3R’s reduce, reuse and recycle; using electronic archives and electronic signatures to avoid wasting paper.

Green Human Resources Management – Leaving the Company

For the strict compliance of the green strategies and policies, and depending on the seriousness of the mistake and its impact, companies can take certain actions where ecologically unfriendly behavior may constitute a breach of contract and possible ground for dismissal. If this happens, it is really important to make exit interviews to evaluate the perception of employees on the company’s ecological practices.

Benefits of Green Human Resources Management

Green HRM has its prime importance in the achievement of broader objectives such as cost saving, corporate social responsibility, talent acquisition and management and gaining an advantage over the competition. According to Parul Deshwal, it further has the following benefits:

  • It helps in employee retention and reduces labor turnover;
  • It improves the brand reputation of a company in the market and can possibly increase sales;
  • It improves the quality of the overall organization both internally and externally;
  • It improves stakeholder’s engagement;
  • It reduces the overall costs of a company as it gets more efficient regarding the use of energy, water, and raw materials;
  • It provides a competitive advantage to the companies in the industry as well as in the market;
  • It stimulates innovation because employees are committed to improving their companies’ ecological footprint and this further facilitates companies’ growth and the improvement in quality and enhancement of procedures and methods;
  • It helps to manage risks more effectively;

In the end, employing a green workforce that understands, practices and improves environment-friendly policies helps organizations being comfortable and proud of the impact that their offices and other facilities have. Furthermore, it helps companies innovate (in a way that allows them to be cost-efficient) and coming up with new procedures and products.

Image credits to Shutterstock on green hrmhuman resources appraisal, bike ride & people teamwork.

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