Going green: not easy, but necessary

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Sustainability is one of the biggest issues of this century so far, and its importance is only increasing. But why is this an HR concern? Some of Canada’s biggest employers are focused on the issue, and they say if you’re ignoring the environment you could be losing talent.

 “People today want to work for a respected and responsible company and top talent today are certainly well-educated on international issues that will affect their future and they value working for a company who is making a difference,” Fairmont VP of Human Resources Carolyn Clark said. “It’s no longer optional – it’s a given today in terms of what people are looking for from an organization. It’s almost as important as career opportunities.”

Fairmont records found it was one of the top three questions being asked by candidates, especially younger applicants. Their findings reflect those of many other Canadian companies, including RBC, which found current and potential employees both valued the focus on green initiatives.

“We ask employees about the importance of  corporate responsibility and almost all employees think it’s important,” Sandra Odendahl, RBC Director of Corporate Sustainability, said. “Questions about sustainability and specifically about environmental sustainability are coming up more and more. It’s really a competitive advantage.”

Beyond recruitment there are also engagement, and cost savings advantages. At York University, employee and student input is key to developing their green program, which involves everything from ensuring there is composting and recycling facilities in every public space to incorporating sustainability into new building design.

“I think that’s a really important tool in fostering a collegial and collaborative workplace,” York University Assistant Vice President Human Resources Aileen Ashman said. “We also have a great opportunity for driving employee engagement. We’ve developed a forum to have students and employees come forward with ideas and initiatives. I think that’s a very critical piece of it.”

When Telus focused on reducing its real estate footprint and designing collaborative spaces, it reduced its costs by $50 million a year – and found its culture and creativity got a boost. Many Telus employees have the option to work from home and there’s a focus on collaboration and tele-conferencing that has made it easy to share ideas, Andrea Goertz, TELUS senior vice-president of strategic initiatives, communications and government relations, said

Overall, a focus on sustainability can mean better recruits, who are more engaged and collaborative. So how do you do it? See next week’s story for these employers’ top tips on embracing sustainability at your organization.


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