Sustainable HR Management Practices

Human resource management (HRM) is an alignment of organizational strategies and human resource policies to improve organizational performance.   Organizations are encouraged to integrate sustainability into their HRM practices to reduced costs, raise social awareness, enhance their attractiveness as employers to prospective employees, and motivate existing employees to excel.   Socially Responsible Human Resource Management (SRHRM) activities balance reaching organizational goals with a sense of corporate social responsibility.   

What is Sustainability

Sustainability can broadly be viewed as people, planet, and profit.  People recognizes that the success of any organization lies in the hands of its people thus employee well-being leads to enhanced performance and a happier workforce.  Planet emphasizes the need to preserve natural resources through sustainable practices that minimize environmental impact.  Profit underscores that financial success and sustainability are not mutually exclusive.

Socially Responsible Human Resource Management (SRHRM)

Sustainability in a work environment attempts to achieve a balance between stakeholders’ needs and goals at different levels simultaneously.  The employee expects fair treatment by the organization.  The organization relies on the individual’s work-related outcomes and thus must ensure the individual is motivated.  

Both the individual and the company are affected by external social factors such as the aging of the workforce, changing demographics in the multicultural and multigenerational workforce, and employee expectations from the company.  The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in numerous unanticipated societal changes that impacted the workplace.  The workplace experienced a sudden and possibly permanent shift from work in a centralized office setting to work performed from remote locations, a significant transfer of full-time employees to non-payroll compensation mechanisms and a new recognition of need for a better work/life balance. 

Companies naturally want to experience stability and economic growth and thus companies evaluate the outcome of the business operations based on financial performance.   However, to be successful in today’s business environment, companies also need to include the short- and long-term social impact of their performance as well. 

Importance of SRHRM In Your Employer Brand

All companies build a workplace reputation  as well as its brand reputation.  In today’s employment environment, the workplace reputation is often the more important factor in recruiting top talent.  With the advent of social media, workplace reputation is immediately available to candidates who look to see how your current and former employees feel about the atmosphere, culture, and support provided at work.   Today, almost 75% of the workforce is comprised of Generation X (35.5%), and Millennials (39.4%). SRHRM practices can influence the extent to which candidates in this applicant pool are attracted to work for a company and can be a competitive advantage.  According to Deloitte and NEW research reports, 77 percent of survey respondents stated it was vital to work for a company whose values aligned with their own and respondents form opinions of a company based on the company’s ethics, practices, and social impact.  Candidates looked for:

  • mentors to help them become better and more productive members of the company
  • work that is interesting and meaningful
  • work that fosters continuous learning
  • work that fosters collaboration not competition
  • Companies that publicly advocate sustainability

Recruiting and Selection

Ideas for sustainable recruiting and selection include:

  • mentioning the company’s support for SHRM practices along with its mission and vision in the candidate interview process
  • describing the corporate culture accurately so each new hire is aware of its importance 
  • using fair and ethical criteria in the recruitment and selection process to ensure diversity and equal opportunities for employment
  • ensuring recruitment processes are free from bias and discriminatory practices
  • ensuring candidates are treated with respect and transparency
  • ensuring feedback opportunities exist for all candidates regardless of whether they are ultimately selected
  • emphasizing the long-term fit and potential of candidates rather than just hiring to fill an immediate hiring need
  • publishing job openings on your website and allowing candidates to upload resumes which minimizes the need for physical resources like paper
  • allowing virtual interviews to eliminate the need for travel which has the added benefit of reducing the carbon footprint of the recruitment process
  • sourcing talent and creating employment opportunities via local communities, educational institutions, and other organizations
  • leveraging technology such as applicant tracking systems to streamline processes and provide a consistent candidate experience

Employee Engagement and Retention

Ideas for sustainable employee engagement and retention:

  • support employee well-being to boost satisfaction using flexible work schedules and promoting mental health benefits either through the medical plan or through an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) if available
  • build ties with local communities by offering paid time off for volunteering
  • be open about the performance evaluation and reward processes to build trust
  • support a work life balance (e.g., flexible working time)
  • support employee engagement and empowerment
  • collect ideas from employees about social & environmental concerns at work and in their communities
  • offer growth and development opportunities (e.g., upskilling, reskilling, job rotation)
  • establish mentorships
  • ensure employee participation in decision-making
  • have a company culture that promotes openness and dialogue
  • define the company’s social purpose and create a code of conduct
  • recognize employee suggestions to advance sustainability with monetary (cash), non-monetary (special leave, discounts) or recognition-based incentives (public praise)
  • conduct employee surveys to identify any gaps in what your intended sustainable company culture is and how employees perceive the company culture
  • nurture a positive culture in which you give constant and constructive feedback

Climate Friendly Changes

Implementing these changes benefit both your organization and the environment:

  • replace paper files with secure, cloud-based software which makes it easier for the organization to keep track of important documents and for employees to save/retrieve files
  • less paper equates to a drop in office supply expenses, saves trees and forests worldwide, and ultimately contributes to slowing down climate change
  • hold meetings online when you have remote workers instead of requiring their in-person attendance which equates time and gas savings
  • exchange paper timesheets / paystubs for an online payment system
  • have energy-efficient workspaces (e.g., start recycling, turning lights off, shutting down laptops)
  • promoting the 5R’s (refuse, reduce, repair, reuse, and recycle)
  • collaborate with suppliers who prioritize sustainable sourcing, ethical production, and environmental responsibility


The implementation of SRHRM will vary based on the company’s culture, financial and intellectual resources, competitive environment, services offered, and workforce skills needed to meet short-term and long-term strategic goals.   Sustainability ultimately seeks to bring the individual and the company as equal partners.   Through some of the human resource tools mentioned in this article you can leverage employee commitment and engagement with the firm’s goals.   SRHRM has broader objectives such as cost-saving, improving corporate social responsibility practices, making companies more attractive employer branding-wise, helps with employee retention and reduces labor turnover. 


C2 is a Professional Employer Organization (“PEO”) that provides outsourced HR services to businesses across a variety of service industries with a focus on federal government contractors.  Utilizing our PEO model allows our clients to transfer the responsibilities and liability of payroll, benefits administration, employee onboarding, and employee relations to C2 and to focus their attention on satisfying their clients and growing their business.  C2 blog posts are intended for educational and information purposes only.

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