Your Guide To Building A Climate-Positive Workforce
According to the Climate Policy Watcher, human activities post industrial revolution have accelerated climate changes that are already reaching alarming levels. These changes are driven by a rise in the earth's temperature, which is in turn caused largely due to the emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases released from industrial activities.
How climate change will transform business and the workforce is a complex topic that needs to be investigated through various lenses.
First, we need to understand how the investor pattern will change with climate change. Various institutional investors who undertake ESG-themed investments will likely become more powerful as our society faces the wrath of climate change. Surely this will favour investments for companies who are proactively taking steps to create a climate-positive business.
Additionally, there will be a focus on using clean energy with replacements of fossil fuels becoming more popular.
Further, from an operational strategy perspective, there will be a focus on reducing waste of materials and energy as well as a focus on recycling.
While all of these aspects are “hard” changes that will be part of the transformation journey, leadership has to be cognisant of the “soft” changes that are needed. We can say with certainty that there will be a climate change impact on the workforce which will be driven by strategic human resources initiatives. The human resources managers need to weave climate positivity in their personnel planning plan just as the top management needs to drive a climate-positive work culture. Company-wide initiatives to make a climate literate workforce need to be undertaken with active participation from the workforce. This calls for a transformation of the workforce towards a climate-positive future.
Transforming the workforce into a climate-positive workforce is a crucial and complex task. The workforce can only transform when it is made aware of the urgency for this transformation.
Once your employees are aware of the urgency, they need to be trained on specific ways individuals can contribute to the cause. It is to be noted that this transformation is not a one-time transformation. This transformation is a cultural transformation that is a continuous process. Any continuous process needs to be monitored to sustain itself. In this case, organisations also need to continuously keep indicators of how the workforce impacts climate positivity and share these measurements as feedback to the workforce. Additionally, to drive employee engagement for these initiatives, the top management must sponsor these initiatives and weave climate-positive actions into the strategy and culture of the organisation.
Some effective ways to build a climate-positive workforce are listed below:
Reduction in business travel to reduce the carbon footprint of the workforce
Drive digital transformations to have paperless operations
Drive waste segregation and recycling at all office/factory sites
Use clean energy for operations
Train the workforce to be aware of how to contribute toward ESG initiatives
Drive sustainability goals from the top management and include them in annual reports
Drive fun activities centred around climate-positive initiatives
Qualify investments based on their ESG impacts
Encourage employees to volunteer for climate-positive initiatives
Train and encourage employees to invest in climate-positive investments
Now let us look at how we can realise the above points in detail
1. Reduction in business travel to reduce the carbon footprint of the workforce
It is quite clear in the post COVID world that most business travel is unnecessary. The workforce needs to be aware that they should not create an unnecessary carbon footprint. They should be trained and encouraged to use video-conferencing and other communications tools to get the job done without business travel.
2. Drive digital transformations to have paperless operations
Digital transformation projects make the operations efficient and can transform businesses into paperless offices. By making this transformation, companies will save hundreds of trees used to manufacture paper. Employees need to be encouraged to use digital signatures, and digital process flows to eliminate the need to take printouts on paper.
3. Drive waste segregation and recycling at all office/factory sites
Workers need to be taught the necessity for recycling and how this can contribute to a sustainable future. Each factory or office must have visual displays for waste segregation, which can enable recycling. Further, each facility should display how much waste they have sent for recycling and show what percentage of total waste was sent for recycling. These metrics should be displayed on digital scoreboards so that each worker is aware of the progress in this field.
4. Use clean energy for operations and commute
Companies should move away from burning fossil fuels and replace them with clean energy. Each facility must install solar panels or wind turbines to produce electricity locally for their use. Further workers should be encouraged to contribute the food waste for compost creation, which could either produce electricity locally or contribute to healing the soil around the site. Workers should be encouraged to use bicycles on large campuses, and dedicated bicycle lanes should be created within each factory campus.
3. Train the workforce to be aware of how to contribute toward ESG initiatives
To have a climate-positive workforce, the first step is to build a climate-literate workforce. Companies should drive training programs and awareness initiatives as mandatory training for their workforce. Additionally, the workforce needs to be made aware of the ESG goals of the company and how they could contribute.
4. Drive sustainability goals from the top management and include them in annual reports
The top management needs to set goals for the ESG targets for the company and share them with the workforce and all other stakeholders. Only when the ESG targets are published by the CEO and shared with shareholders and the workforce will they be taken seriously by all. Management needs to make it clear that these goals are not optional but are crucial for the sustainable growth of the company and the environment in which it operates.
4. Drive fun activities centred around climate-positive initiatives
Sustainability need not be a serious and dry subject. Companies can encourage their workforce to engage in competitions to improve climate positivity. Competitions can be run across the year between various teams or functions or locations where teams will compete to improve climate positivity. There could be monthly or quarterly and annual awards to individuals and teams to recognize their contributions.
5. Qualify investments based on their ESG impacts
Companies can also include their ESG goals as qualifying criteria for making investment decisions. They can prioritise investments for projects which will drive climate positivity while deciding which projects to undertake for various Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.
6. Encourage employees to volunteer for climate-positive initiatives
Another great way to build a climate-positive workforce is to encourage the employees to volunteer for climate-positive initiatives within and outside the organisation. Employees could be encouraged to become leaders for their teams or office locations to drive climate-positive initiatives locally. Some employees could also become evangelists to spread awareness on these topics.
7. Train and encourage employees to invest in climate-positive investments
Companies can also train their employees to identify investments that will be climate-positive. The employees will be able to choose wisely from various investment options. For instance, they will be able to avoid investments in companies that hurt the climate and choose those companies with a high ESG ranking instead for their investments.
It is to be noted that some of the above initiatives need investment from the organisation to be implemented. For instance, training of employees or installation of solar panels, or digital transformations need upfront investments. However, most of these initiatives can be self-sustaining since they will reduce the energy bills or bills for consumables soon.
Additionally, a greatly improved ESG rating for the company will attract institutional investors who prioritise socially responsible companies for their investments. Hence, we can say that these initiatives not only bolster the softer aspect of the company culture and bring a purpose to the workforce but also have a low payback period and can be a great investment that can raise the company's share price. It is truly a win-win situation to focus and invest in this area for the top management of any organisation.
In conclusion, it can be stated that multiple initiatives can be designed to build a climate-positive workforce. While some operational initiatives can be undertaken, there is a need to have support from top management to drive these initiatives as a holistic goal.
Multiple initiatives from the list above need to be undertaken in tandem to reach the goal of building a climate-positive workforce. Only when multiple initiatives are undertaken with a clear strategic priority driven by the top management can the culture of a company change. Only when a company's culture changes holistically can the workforce become truly climate-positive.