Employers not involving HR in climate strategies

Out-Law News | 28 Sep 2021 | 8:53 am |

Sarah Munro tells HRNews why HR is being shut out of climate change projects


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  • Transcript

    Half of UK employers are not involving HR in their climate strategies according to new research. This is a guide to climate change for HR leaders published by Willis Towers Watson who found that only half of the organisations they surveyed said that HR was involved in developing their company’s climate change agenda and, of those that hadn’t involved HR, only 9% planned to do so in future. The survey questioned HR leaders from 120 organisations to learn more about how they are addressing climate change ahead of the UN Climate Conference, COP26, in Glasgow in November. 

    Personnel Today report on this and highlight some of the wider data. So, only 13% of organisations have a written climate statement included in their employer value proposition (EVP). Just a fifth communicate their climate strategy and targets to employees.

    It appears HR are very keen to be involved and do more. Almost everyone (97%) agreed that employees have a significant role to play in delivery of the company’s climate strategy. The vast majority (92%) believed it was important to have a clear strategy in their employee value proposition. Also, 62% thought everyone’s pay should be tied to its delivery on climate.

    The report describes the involvement of HR leaders as ‘the missing link’ and highlight the risks of not involving them. They say, first, impatient investors and talented employees will look to make their contribution to organisations which are committed to climate change actions. Secondly, new talent will be put off. Thirdly, current skills, knowledge and capabilities are likely to be a poor fit for the future.

    So, let’s get a view on this from someone who is working closely with clients ahead of COP26. Sarah Munro joined me from Edinburgh to discuss the issues. I put it to Sarah that it this is an interesting report:

    Sarah Munro: “Yes, it is an interesting report and it's something that, of course, is on everybody's agenda just now. After an unprecedented summer of climate change episodes across the world, and with COP26 happening in Glasgow in November, everyone's talking about climate change and it's now reaching the senior leaders of organisations, as we actually discussed back in July. It surprised me, this report, that HR aren't more involved because HR have a huge skill set in ensuring that projects and strategies like this are cascaded down through a workforce and ensure employee engagement in such big issues as this. Where I think HR can really help in organisations’ climate change strategies is taking the lead on the fact that this really is a cultural change. HR for the last number of years have been heavily involved in diversity and inclusion projects in workforces and making sure that employees are engaged in that, and they can use that experience to really help with the cultural shift we're seeing in respect of climate change. The obvious areas where HR can help are in reward. For example, you will have seen in the press that a lot of organisations are beginning to link executive pay and executive bonuses to ESG goals but HR can add more than just the reward sphere, they can help in recruitment and retention and making sure that climate change strategies are fully engaged and they’re fully engaging with employees on them and making sure that employees know what their organisation's targets are, and goals are. So, HR professionals’ expertise in this area could really serve their organisation's well and make sure that the employees, and potential recruits, know where their workplace is going in terms of climate change strategy.”

    Joe Glavina: “So why do you think HR is being shut out when it comes to climate change?

    Sarah Munro: “I think HR is being shut out, not deliberately, but because companies are really looking at this on a macro scale. It's something that companies have been engaging with in recent years and I think they're very much focused on thinking what do we as an organisation need to do quickly, we need to get out there, we need to be talking about this. They're not really thinking of the benefits of cascading it down through their workforce and having employees engaged and, if you've got your employees engaged, the benefit that will have on your outward story to other people. So, I don't think it's a deliberate act, I think it's just the pace with which organisations are having to think about climate change. They’ve not, maybe, taken a step back to think let's get our employees on board first and use our HR professionals with their expertise to help with that. I think once employers think about what their employees are talking about and what interests them that will help shape their climate change strategy too.”

    That report by Willis Towers Watson is called: ‘Making an Impact - Climate Change Guide - A starter guide to climate change for HR leaders’ and is very good in our view, well worth reading. You can download it from the firm’s website and we have put a link to that in the transcript of this programme.

    Finally, a reminder that the government is planning to make the disclosure of climate-related financial information mandatory for listed companies and large private businesses. Back in July, Sarah Munro talked to this programme about HR’s role. That programme is called: ‘Role for HR in climate-related financial disclosures’ and is available now for viewing from the Outlaw website.

    - Link to Willis Towers Watson report: ‘Making An Impact - Climate Change Guide - A starter guide to climate change for HR leaders’