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(Corporate Social Responsibility – Human Resources = Public Relations)

I came across this “equation” yesterday while researching best green HR practices. It is a quote by Adine Mees and Jamie Bunham of Canadian Business for Social Responsibility from DRIVING SUCCESS: Human resources and sustainable development. They then followed with this:

If employees are not engaged, Corporate Social Responsibility becomes an exercise in public relations. The credibility of an organization will become damaged when it becomes evident that a company is not ‘walking the talk’.

Although some say that the verdict is still out when it comes to green initiatives for employees, I say not. Some studies say that while nice, offering green initiatives doesn’t actually affect employment decisions or employee satisfaction, the two metrics that actually mean something. However, when looking at the trend data, Green employee programs seem to make a lot of sense. Trend watcher Reinier Evers says that the rising importance of salient perks and benefits, which he calls “perkonomics“ is a development that should not be ignored. Studies show that female and younger employees increasingly want green HR initiatives. In another, 79% of Gen Y workers report that they would be more likely to accept a job offer at a green company than another company when evaluating two similar job offers. Another study found that 69% of Gen Y workers want their company to be more environmentally friendly. Working women (63%) feel the same way, compared to only 54% of men and 52% of Boomers.

Green employee initiatives can also be a good way to save you and your employees money — kind of like giving them a raise without giving them extra cash. Sun Microsystem allows employees to work from home or at a variety of company-sponsored flexible-office locations. By working at home an average of 2.5 days per week, employees saved more than $1,700 per year in gasoline and wear and tear on their vehicles, about two hours a week in commute time and it reduced energy used for work by the equivalent of 5,400 Kilowatt hours/year.

Offering flexible schedules and telecommuting seems to be the most valuable (to both employers and employees) green benefit to offer.  According to a survey of 1,400 CFOs conducted by Robert Half International, 46% said it is second only to salary as the best way to attract top talent and 33% said it is the #1 draw. And 51% of Gen Xers said they’d quit if another employer offered them the chance to telecommute. The Journal of Applied Psychology published a study that identified the positive results of telecommuting as: increased control, increased work/family balance, improved supervisor-staff relationships, reduced stress, increased job satisfaction, worker retention and improved productivity and career prospects. They concluded that “Telecommuting a win-win situation.”

So, consider whether your HR policies accurately show your greenness. Whether you allow telecommuting, provide holistic health options, give paid time off to volunteer for environmental causes, match donations to green causes or support carpooling, it is likely to be worth it. Although hard to quantify, green employee initiatives can be an effective way to promote greenness, market your uniqueness, show empathy with employee values and gain a competitive advantage in attracting talent.

Which green HR practices work the best for you? What do you have that you like? What do you wish you had? Please share!

Photo by Faakhir Rizvi at sxc.hu.


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