Why sustainability is crucial for a future-proof workforce

  • Amsterdam, the Netherlands
    • 2023-09-19
    • Reading time: 6 minutes
business man holding a plant

Embedding sustainability into a company's DNA is no longer a choice; it's a necessity for long-term success. Organizations that treat sustainability as a mere checkbox exercise will find themselves at risk of losing their license to operate in a world increasingly focused on environmental and social responsibility. One crucial aspect where sustainability can make a significant difference is in shaping a company's workforce. Employee engagement, driven by sustainability initiatives, not only impacts talent acquisition and retention but also plays a pivotal role in achieving broader sustainability goals. This article delves into the significance of employee engagement and provides actionable strategies to future-proof your company's workforce.

How sustainability can future-proof your workforce

In today's competitive job markets, companies are continually striving to remain attractive to both current and prospective employees. Increasingly, sustainability is emerging as a pivotal factor in job seekers' decision-making process. Sustainability can future-proof your workforce in several ways:

  1. Environmental Resilience: Adopting sustainable practices and technologies enables your organization to reduce its environmental footprint, making it more resilient to future challenges, such as climate change. This commitment to sustainability can also enhance your reputation, and brand loyalty which attracts top talent seeking socially and environmentally responsible employers.

  2. Cost Savings: Sustainability initiatives often lead to cost savings, contributing to your organization's long-term competitiveness. Demonstrating a commitment to sustainability builds trust with employees, customers, and stakeholders, a vital element for sustained success.

  3. Adaptability: Promoting sustainability fosters a culture of continuous learning and adaptability within your organization. This empowers employees to stay updated with emerging trends and technologies, enhancing resilience in the face of change.

  4. Innovation: Sustainability requires creative thinking and innovative solutions. Encouraging an innovative mindset can catalyze creativity within your organization, essential for long-term competitiveness.

  5. Employee Engagement: Engaging employees in sustainability initiatives by soliciting their ideas and contributions instills a sense of purpose and meaning in their work. This leads to increased engagement and motivation, critical for retaining top talent and building an effective workforce.

  6. Social and Environmental Responsibility: Prioritizing sustainability and aligning your business towards sustainability demonstrates your commitment to social and environmental responsibility, making your organization attractive to a new generation of purpose-driven employees.

The role of HR in sustainability

Human resources (HR) plays a pivotal role in driving sustainability initiatives within an organization. HR contributes to the cultivation of a sustainability-oriented corporate culture. This involves crafting and disseminating policies, procedures, and initiatives that champion environmentally and socially responsible behavior. Furthermore, HR ensures that the workforce is well-versed in sustainability matters and dedicated to the organization's sustainability objectives, be it through hiring individuals with sustainability expertise or providing training to current staff.

Collaborating with other departments, HR aids in the development of policies and practices in line with sustainability goals, encompassing green HR initiatives, sustainability-focused policies, and performance evaluation metrics. Additionally, HR ensures legal compliance with pertinent sustainability-related laws and regulations in the workplace. HR's role extends to nurturing partnerships and collaborations with like-minded organizations that share common sustainability objectives, thereby broadening the company's impact.

Finally, HR acts as a conduit for communicating the organization's sustainability endeavors and aspirations to employees, ensuring their comprehension of how they can contribute, thereby fostering a shared sense of purpose and commitment to sustainability throughout the organization.

Sustainability team having a fun meeting at the office

HR sustainability initiatives

Numerous HR-related sustainability initiatives can be adopted:

  1. Sustainability Audits: Conduct audits to identify areas where the organization can improve its environmental performance.
  2. Partnerships and Initiatives: Collaborate with other organizations or participate in sustainability-focused events to raise awareness and drive change.
  3. Remote Work: Allow employees to work from home or remotely to reduce commuting and improve work-life balance.
  4. Digital Document Management: Implement digital document management to reduce paper usage and waste.
  5. Training: Provide sustainability training to build knowledge, awareness, and encourage sustainable practices in employees' personal lives.
  6. Employee Benefits: Offer benefits like public transportation subsidies, discounts on eco-friendly products, and incentives for environmentally friendly transportation.
  7. Waste Reduction: Encourage employees to reduce waste and recycle.
  8. Energy-Efficient Devices: Promote the use of energy-efficient devices to reduce energy consumption.
  9. Sustainable Travel: Encourage sustainable travel options for work-related trips.
  10. Sustainable Sourcing: Encourage employees to choose sustainably produced products and services.
  11. Performance Evaluation Metrics: Include sustainability goals in employee performance evaluations.
  12. Carbon Offsetting: Offer carbon offsetting programs for employees.
  13. Supplier Engagement: Work with suppliers to source sustainable materials and products.
  14. Community Engagement: Encourage employees to get involved in sustainability initiatives within their local communities.

Benefits of employee engagement in sustainability

Engaging employees in sustainability initiatives offers a range of valuable advantages. It fosters a deeper commitment and ownership among employees, leading to increased motivation. Additionally, sustainability projects often necessitate cross-functional collaboration, which, in turn, enhances teamwork and communication within the organization. Moreover, involving employees in sustainability initiatives taps into their knowledge, resulting in the generation of creative solutions and innovations. This heightened engagement also translates into increased productivity, as employees find purpose and meaning in their work. Finally, a strong reputation for sustainability not only attracts and retains top talent but also bolsters the company's image in the community and with customers, signifying a steadfast commitment to responsible practices and environmental stewardship.


Sustainability is integral to creating a future-proof workforce, with HR playing a central role in driving this transformation. By focusing on recruitment, training, employee engagement, policies, and communication, HR departments can cultivate a culture of sustainability within their organizations. Various HR-related sustainability initiatives, from reducing waste to carbon offsetting, can be adopted to align with broader sustainability goals. The benefits of employee engagement in sustainability initiatives are manifold, including increased commitment, improved collaboration, enhanced innovation, higher productivity, and a stronger company reputation. As organizations adapt to a changing world, integrating sustainability into their DNA will be a key driver of long-term success.

Interested to read more on this topic? Download our E-book!

We recently published an interesting blog on the do’s and don'ts in sustainability communication. Check it out here.

Take action today with Regreener

Boris Bekkering

Boris Bekkering Head of Climate Impact