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28 Jun 2022
by Debi O'Donovan

REBA inside track: HR teams must meet the pressures of the sustainability drive

Sustainability and corporate purpose are changing the way we do business, but employment practices have been slower to catch up

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While the sustainable revolution has begun, there are doubts on whether human resources teams are on the front foot on what sustainability means for workforce planning, talent development, reward practices and supply-chain procurement.

Employers are stepping up

We are just eight years away from the UN’s Global Sustainable Development Goals 2030 deadline and 28 years away its 2050 net zero target. We can already see how employers have started to come to the table on global challenges such as the climate crisis, inclusivity and poverty.

Changing products and services

In REBA research, Sustainability is driving business change, produced in association with Mercer Marsh Benefits (published in June 2022), we discovered that eight out of 10 respondent organisations have changed at least some of their products or services to meet sustainability objectives. Meanwhile an equally high proportion are making ongoing changes.

Astonishingly, over a quarter told us that within the next two years they will have changed all their products and services to meet sustainability targets.

Sustainability revolution

The revolution to become sustainable needs human resources teams front and centre with strategies to hand. This level of radical corporate change can only be achieved if employees are able to adapt or learn new skills in order to produce or deliver new types of products and services; they will need to work differently; and believe in values that go beyond monetary profit.

Not surprisingly, HR teams are feeling the internal pressure. They are caught between aligning with evolving business goals from the c-suite as CEOs drive to meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals and workforces which are increasingly questioning current and future employers about their corporate values.

Visible shift in sustainability proposition

At REBA we see HR teams remapping their employee value proposition to incorporate ESG values, including diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and employee wellbeing in order to attract or hold onto talent. There has been a visible shift towards sustainability as a business differentiator and employer brand marketing opportunity.

HR teams also have a key part to play in helping their employer meet external pressures. Supply chains are under scrutiny, with suppliers being increasingly audited against a list of sustainability practices – ranging from working against bribery to the recognising the right to collective bargaining.

The future of work will be shaped by the business transformation to sustainability impacting people and planet, and HR professionals are key to this.

This article was originally published in the Future of Work supplement in the Guardian Today.

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