Greening HR

HRM,Shalini Shukla 14 Dec 2011

Employees at Integrated Archive Systems, receive $10,000, if they choose to purchase a hybrid car. According to media reports, CEO Amy Rao also hands out free recyclable grocery bags and offers daily in-office lunches so that employees do not have to drive to eat.

The US-based data management company represents a growing number of organisations who are working to weave in green practices into their HR policies. According to The Greening of the American Workplace 2010, a recent survey by Buck Consultants, 69% of US organisations have green programmes in place in 2011, an increase of 53% from last year.

Companies are increasingly beginning to understand that green initiatives not only benefit the environment but help with the attraction and retention of talent- and this forms a strong business case for HR.

The Millennial Generation (those born around 1986) is leading the adoption of sustainability and see it as their future, says Bill Roth, green business coach and author of The Secret Green Sauce. “The path to attracting the Millennial Generation employee is for a company to have values-driven business culture aligned with their focus on sustainability.”

Green perks

Cost savings are one of the more tangible benefits of going green. Buck Consultants found that 60% of organisations are measuring their cost savings from green programmes this year, and the figures are up 39% from 2010.

BT, a leading provider of communications services, is one example of a company that has reaped millions in savings due to its green initiatives. According to BT’s Sustainability Report, cost savings amounted up to £102m (US$165m) in 2010 alone.

This figure included fuel costs and energy costs avoided (associated with reduced fuel consumption, stripping out effects of price changes), waste handling costs avoided (associated with reduced volumes of waste, stripping out effects of price changes), waste recycling income and landfill tax avoided as well as transport savings, energy and property costs that were saved due to avoided meetings and working-from-home arrangements.

Bill Roth, green business coach and author of The Secret Green Sauce says that going green is a consumer-led revolution. “Consumers are seeking ‘in me, on me and around me’ solutions for their lives. The organisations that are going green are aligning with their customers’ goals.”

HR: Green champions

In many companies, the concept of going green is a ‘function’ or ‘department’. The Buck Consultants survey demonstrates that HR, Public Affairs and Communications departments are most often responsible for green programmes, making up 80% of the votes.

Roth agrees, saying that the HR function in particular has a tremendous opportunity to create increased value for their companies by “assisting in the design and development of ‘green teams’ that identify and implement smart, healthy and green actions”.

Panasonic Asia Pacific is one company where HR has implemented programmes to inculcate green habits and behaviours in its employees. “Programmes include Green Transport Day, which encourages employees to take green transport to work, and the 10% Energy and Water Challenge, where we urge employees to save electricity and water at home,” says Low Beng Huat, General Manager, Regional Planning and Affairs Group, Panasonic Asia Pacific.

Apart from internal programmes, Panasonic also partners with employees to support eco activities such as Earth Hour organised by the WWF. Employees have also been empowered to play their part through the creation of zones in the office using letters of the alphabet and coloured signs on the ceiling to increase energy conservation. The zones are linked to clusters of power switches, allowing employees to easily switch them off by viewing the zoning floor plan displayed above the switches.

Growing roots

People play a big part in any company’s move towards a smarter, greener and more efficient office. “Employees are often closest to the customers seeking products that are smart, healthy and green and therefore are often in the best position to create ideas for increasing revenues,” says Roth.

BT’s Filia Lim, Head of HR, South East Asia, also believes the key to the success of green initiatives is the people who make it all happen. “We can set the targets, but without the input and efforts of each employee, those targets will not be met.”

Employees often need encouragement in changing mind-sets and developing green behaviours. Fuji Xerox’s Senior Manager for Technology and Solutions, Willie Lim, says, “most employees do not think that they contribute to a ‘carbon footprint’ or that what they do daily has any impact on the environment. Others feel that it is the green team’s responsibility, and they fail to realise that every single person living on this earth is responsible for the environment that we live in.”

For any organisation to embrace an eco-workplace, it is imperative that every employee be ‘educated’ and ‘informed’ of the state of the world environment and how they can do their part.

Leading growth

Leadership has also been found to be a critical factor for success of green workforce initiatives. The Buck Consultants survey found that companies which have appointed individuals to lead organisational green efforts have a much higher prevalence of employees actively involved in their green practices than companies which have not.

For companies with at least three-quarters of their employees actively involved in green programmes, nearly a quarter have appointed an individual to lead green efforts. Overall, 88% of companies with formal green programmes include the CEO in development and communications, while 91% have appointed a dedicated leader.

Roth also believes that the most critical requirement for engaging people in going green is top leadership. “CEOs (for instance) must assure associates that their willingness to think outside the box to implement smart, healthy and green innovations will be positively recognised. The result is typically an unleashing of increased productivity and positive innovation.”

At Panasonic Asia Pacific, its managing director is actively involved in championing organisational green efforts as the company believes that business growth will be achieved through contribution to the environment. “Our previous MD, Ikuo Miyamoto, was awarded the EcoFriend award from the National Environment Agency of Singapore for his green efforts,” says Low. “Under the new MD, Yorihisa Shiokawa, we believe that Panasonic Asia Pacific will be able to achieve even better green targets in the future.”


Going green pays

Bill Roth, green business coach and author of The Secret Green Sauce, cited the case of an employee who, with one idea, today saves his company US$1m per year with zero incremental capital investment. He had an idea for cutting electricity costs to reduce the company’s environmental footprint. The implementation of the idea required only a change in how the company operated a light fixture.

Stopping the use of this particular light fixture, company-wide, saves US$1m annually with a comparable reduction in electricity-related emissions. The company did not have to invest in any new equipment.

Benefits: Zero capital costs, US$1m in savings, reduced electricity-related emissions with zero negative impacts upon performance because the lighting provided by this fixture did not impact performance.



Panasonic Asia Pacific

Panasonic has implemented a set of green indexes on top of business KPIs. Publicly announced in January 2010 by the company president, these global excellence indexes cover sales, profit and return on equity. All employees must contribute to the achievement of these green indexes, through measures such as reduced CO2 emissions and improving recycling ratios.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Panasonic has also announced its mid-term regional eco-plan, with the ‘eco-ideas’ declaration in June 2010. “We have set targets in the declaration that include promoting the sales of our eco-friendly products through eco-exhibitions and consumer outreach programmes, rolling out eco-education programmes for the youth, CO2 emission reduction from manufacturing activities and establishing ‘eco-ideas’ factories which are our model factories that spread our ‘eco-ideas’ to more people,” says Low Beng Huat, General Manager, Regional Planning and Affairs Group, Panasonic Asia Pacific.

Being green has allowed the company to reap many tangible and intangible benefits. For example, by making the environment central to business activities, Panasonic has been able to achieve higher sales for eco-friendly products and create new business in the area of energy and environment. “Also, by practising green activities in our factory, we are able to improve our productivity through energy reduction and enhanced recycling ratio,” Low adds.

Furthermore, by organising green activities for employees and the public, Panasonic has been able to contribute to building a sustainable society as a public entity and this helps build a positive corporate image and sustainable business for the company in the future.


Tips to go green

Reducing an employee’s carbon footprint can be done in the following ways:

+       Going digital – electronic filing, teleconferencing, telecommuting, online training, virtual interviews

+       Green transportation – public transport, ride sharing

+       Cutting down on energy usage – developing more energy-efficient office spaces, recycling

+       Preserving knowledge capital – retaining talent including mature workers, training and development, implementing wellness programmes around proper nutrition, fitness, and healthy living



Going Green at Fuji Xerox

As part of its efforts to get employees and customers to ‘think and do green’, Fuji Xerox runs regular green awareness and education programmes such as the ‘Go Green Series’ in order to provide green teams with knowledge on how to green their office. The unique Go Green Series of seminars and workshops are conducted regularly at the Fuji Xerox Towers as well as on-site at various business establishments.

The Go Green Series features four main topics:

+       Go Green Workshops – ideal for green teams and those who want to learn the what, why, when, where, who and how of greening the office

+       20Rs of Going Green – ideal for employees and a good start to create awareness, educate employees and to address and change ‘mind-sets’

+       Green Best Practices – sharing of best practices and green tools

+       Green Tools Hands-On – a practical and hands-on workshop on how to use the green tools and green solutions

Since its inception in late 2009, 150 establishments have participated in the Go Green Series.





For eight consecutive years, BT has been recognised as the world’s top telecoms company in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), bearing testament to the efforts that have been undertaken since the organisation set its first carbon reduction target back in 1992.

Filia Lim, Head of HR, South East Asia, BT, says, “we actively engage employees to see how they can help BT reach the target of having 20% of the workforce actively involved in carbon reduction initiatives at home and work by 2012.”

One of the initiatives that has been set up includes Carbon Clubs – the establishment of a carbon community where more than 7,000 employees are engaged in carbon reduction activities such as car-sharing schemes and the cycle-fit initiative.

In line with the BT cycle-fit initiative, their new office at Technopark @Chai Chee has been fitted with showers and lockers to encourage greener alternative modes of transport to work, and the company encourages employees to engage in a healthier lifestyle by taking advantage of the gym facilities in the business park.

BT also uses flexible work options and technology to allow employees to work remotely, giving them the opportunity to cut down on their need for commuting for meetings, as well as the opportunity to meet needs previously considered as conflicting – eg, family commitments. Employees also take up BT Conferencing and Telepresence solutions to minimise face-to-face meetings, thereby cutting down on employee travel.

“With the overall reduction in employee travel, BT saves an estimated S$330,000 per quarter,” says Lim.


Green shoots

Generation Z should not be ignored in the race to go green. Fuji Xerox believes that the right values and mind-sets should be inculcated early on in youths so that businesses can truly have a sustainability advantage. To develop the next generation green workforce, Fuji Xerox has teamed up with Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF) in a green IT certification partnership to offer the Singapore Certified Green IT Professional (SCGP).

The certification aims to equip IT professionals with a basic understanding of Green IT so that they can deploy it in their organisations.


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