Employees could be key to tackling sustainability challenges


Sustainability is increasingly a priority for organisations, as they consider the impact they have on the environment, the impact of climate-related risks on their activities and their responsibility to act. While there are challenges to becoming a sustainable business, employees could be the solution to addressing them, says Hays, the world leading specialist in workforce solutions and recruitment. 
More and more businesses are incorporating sustainability into their strategies, as they recognise a need to act. Organisations have more avenues to explore than ever before when it comes to identifying and achieving corporate sustainability targets.  
Sue Wei, Managing Director at Hays Hong Kong SAR notes that it is increasingly clear how embedding sustainability into business models is critical for long-term success.  
“As Hong Kong transforms into an international and regional hub for green finance, other industries such as energy and property are also having serious conversations about sustainability and how to move the needle on (environmental, social, and governance). Sustainable businesses attract not only investors, but today’s values-driven generation of younger talent who prefer to work for socially and environmentally responsible organisations. This new generation of talent is a key success lever for modern organisations.” 
Fiona Place, Hays Group Head of Sustainability, recently shared advice on ways business leaders can empower their people and harness their passion to make a difference. 
Place says, “Business leaders are increasingly accepting their responsibility in tackling the climate crisis, and it is their duty to ensure that the people they work with play their part. Harnessing the power, knowledge and passion of the workforce is crucial if we are to be successful, and your workforce should be a key part of any corporate sustainability strategy.”  
1) Build on workforce behaviour change post-pandemic 
More and more people are travelling again since the restrictions put in place during the pandemic have eased, leading to an increase in travel by road, rail and air. Hybrid working models mean a permanent reduction in the number of journeys relating to work; however, whereas daytime energy consumption was largely limited to the workplace before the pandemic, offices and homes are now powered simultaneously. 
Place comments, “To counter the rise in commuting organisations can identify where meetings can be conducted virtually, or travel conducted via alternative methods. For example, Hays has committed to a 40% reduction in flights by 2026. Hays businesses across the globe are also transitioning to a fleet of electric and hybrid company vehicles, while employees at Hays Germany have access to an app that advises on alternative sustainable modes of transport, road or rail, over air or road.” 
Companies can also play their part in influencing employees’ energy usage at home by educating and encouraging their people to limit consumption and introduce energy efficiency measures. For example, Hays has also been working to move from desktop PCs to laptops, which use up to 65% less power and have automatic sleep modes to save energy, while older tech hardware is recycled, donated or disposed of safely. 
2) Engage employees in sustainability 
Some workers may be cautious about adapting; however, there are positive signs that workforce attitudes toward the environment are changing. A poll conducted by Hays on LinkedIn in 2022 showed that two thirds of respondents consider an organisation’s commitment to sustainability goals an important factor when considering working for them.  
Place comments that it can affect a company’s attraction and retention strategy, “Strong leadership plays an important role too. Employees are increasingly aware of token gestures or ‘greenwashing’; by falling into this trap, you risk missing out on attracting and retaining talent if your prospective employees remain unconvinced of your commitments. If these candidates are among those training in green skills, you increase the likelihood of driving away people who can improve your business and lead the initiatives to deliver on your corporate sustainability goals.” 

3) Grow your “green” workforce 
An increasing number of organisations are seeking experienced practitioners in ESG and sustainability or with the skills to service the rapidly expanding green economy. As a result, green skills are currently in high demand, with supply not keeping pace.  
Place suggests alternatives if organisations are unable to find the people with the necessary skills, “One option is to upskill the current workforce. Most organisations will have employees who are passionate about sustainability, and it’s important that companies support and offer resources to those who are keen to make a difference in this area, particularly as investing in employees and their chosen ventures can motivate them and inspire loyalty.” 
As sustainability continues to grow in its importance, businesses need to ensure that they’re not left behind. The journey to achieving a truly sustainable business will take time and investment, however, it also presents an opportunity for organisations to explore the opportunities and reap the benefits that the transition to a low carbon economy presents.  
Place says, “If we collectively manage to achieve what is set out in the Paris Agreement – to secure global Net Zero by mid-century and limit global temperature risk to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels – then it certainly will be worth it.” 
About Hays 

Hays plc (the "Group") is the world leading specialist in workforce solutions and recruitment, such as RPO and MSP. The Group is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide, being the market leader in the UK and Australia and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe, Latin America and Asia. The Group operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. As at 31 December 2021 the Group employed c.12,100 staff operating from 254 offices. For the year ended 30 June 2021: 
– the Group reported net fees of £918.1 million and operating profit of £95.1 million; 
– the Group placed around 60,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 220,000 people into temporary roles; 
– 17% of Group net fees were generated in Australia & New Zealand, 27% in Germany, 22% in United Kingdom & Ireland and 34% in Rest of World (RoW); 
– the temporary placement business represented 61% of net fees and the permanent placement business represented 39% of net fees; 
– Technology is the Group’s largest specialism, with 26% of net fees, while Accountancy & Finance (14%) and Construction & Property (12%), are the next largest