Climate Solutions at Work

Human Resources and Operations

As a human resources and operations professional, you play a key role in shaping work operations, culture, and employee behavior. Because you have a bird’s eye view of your company, you are in the best position to communicate that climate change is both a risk and opportunity for the entire business. You can shape workplace culture in a way that ensures the workforce is empowered to move climate action forward in the organization. In fact, studies have found that “green” HR practices correlate with greater employee climate concern and action at work and elsewhere, showing that you can create ripples of change beyond your own company.   

To make your human resources and operations job a climate job:

Employee benefits
  • Offer employees financial support for their own individual climate action, such as renewable energy purchasing and low-carbon transportation. 

  • Provide opportunities for employees to volunteer with climate organizations and participate in climate actions (e.g., a climate march)—outside of normal PTO/leave.  

  • Offer climate-safe retirement plan options. (Better yet, make climate-friendly options the default.) Work with the finance team to evaluate whether retirement plans, 401(k)s, and other portfolios are invested in fossil fuels—if they are, consult the resources below.

    • Work with the legal team to help you navigate legal requirements under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), to ensure climate-safe retirement options have competitive financial returns.
  • Find out whether your company’s insurers finance carbon-intensive projects (see the resources below). If so, create a policy that gives preference to divested insurance companies. 

Employee recruitment and professional development
  • Integrate climate and sustainability requirements and metrics into job descriptions, objectives and key results, and performance reviews and bonuses. (See this example from Mastercard).

  • Institute mandatory—or at least incentivize—climate action training as part of onboarding and ongoing employee education at all levels of the organization, and especially for leadership.

Workplace culture
  • Foster a work culture where employees feel comfortable and are able to bring up climate concerns to leadership and take on climate at work. Create consistent pathways and forums for employees to provide feedback to leadership.

  • Bring in climate scientists, advocates, facilitators, youth climate activists, and other experts to spark conversation. 

  • Work with your sustainability team (or a consultant) to develop or sponsor job training and education programs for local communities to build the green workforce.

  • Provide employees with plant-rich snacks and meal options within food service or catering.  

Operations
  • Work with finance and strategy teams to develop clear climate performance metrics at the management level, for transparency and accountability.

  • Minimize carbon-intensive business travel for you, your team, and the organization as a whole, and opt for virtual gatherings. If possible, instead of flying, choose lower-carbon travel options, such as the train.

Fostering dialogue and action
  • Build community with other climate-concerned colleagues within your team and beyond. Come together to brainstorm ways you can take action, and raise your collective concern at team and all-staff meetings.
Ready to take action?Here are some questionsand ideas to help youget started: 

Take stock: Identify your company’s corporate sustainability and climate commitments, if any. Are these goals connected to the human resources team’s goals? Can you integrate the above actions into your company, team, or individual performance objectives? What is the culture of employee climate action at your organization? Do employees feel comfortable taking action or asking for change? Do any employee benefits enable sustainable practices? Are retirement and insurance plans invested in or funding fossil fuels?

Make needed changes or reach out to someone else who can: What decision-making power do you have? Can you implement these actions yourself, or do you need to raise the issue with a supervisor? Is anyone with decision-making power already on board with climate action? Or is there someone you might be able to influence? Test the waters by sharing your own interest in climate action with other key colleagues and gauging their response. Consult power-mapping tools for help.

You don’t have to do it alone: Find others in your department who are also climate-concerned. Join forces to show broad support for integrating climate action into the HR department and throughout the organization. Consider writing a letter or petition to leadership, or bringing up your concerns at an all-staff meeting (something that will grab leadership’s attention!).

Need help making the business case? 

Almost 70 percent of workers in the United States consider a company’s environmental record when considering taking a job, with 25 percent of workers citing it as a “major” factor. That means integrating authentic climate action into the business is good for recruitment and retention. This is especially true for corporate employees under age 30: 93 percent agree the more socially and environmentally responsible their company becomes, the more “motivated and loyal they will be as employees.” Climate action also can help employees and the organization as a whole develop purpose, corporate cohesion, engagement, and innovation.

Resources 

The Drawdown Labs Job Function Action Guides will help employees understand how their roles are critical in addressing the climate crisis, as well as implement high-impact solutions and navigate key considerations for taking action inside the workplace.

Board of Directors
Strategy
Product
Development
Sustainability
Communications
Partnerships
and Community
Affairs

Please note: This graphic is illustrative of how different teams across a company must work together to achieve strong climate action. We encourage you to examine your organization’s own unique structure to determine how to best coordinate and integrate climate action across functions.

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