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role of HR
Role of HR in sustainable businesses

Role of HR in sustainable businesses

Human resource management is critical in supporting the organisation to improve effectiveness, to manage corporate governance and ethical issues beyond economic performance, and to support realignment of the organisation’s future direction and vision of new ways of operating.

Ethical considerations around the role of HR are important because focus on getting the maximum commitment from employees may negatively impact them in regard to less work security and more precarious work arrangements. The decline in worker representation through trade unions and changes around globalised trade, outsourcing and employment means that HR has a direct impact on society.

HR has the potential to be the moral compass of the organisation, promoting policies and practices that are sustainable for humans and the environment. Whilst these goals aren’t easy to achieve, HRM can facilitate the dialogue between managers and employees as well as contribute to the organisational culture change, as has been amply demonstrated in the past 20 years of research.

The strategic role of HR links ethical principles, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and HR functions, creating a map to sustainability. HR personnel can use ‘daily tools’ to support and embed sustainability, such as:

  • Engagement techniques, focused on an open and transparent communication style
  • Motivational theories, based on extrinsic and intrinsic values
  • Inspiring regular meetings, in accordance to the principles of respect and understanding
  • Applying analytical ability to rethink functions to align them best to where the organisation needs to head.

These people-oriented skills are even more important in the case of a sustainable business. The aim here is to create a harmonious environment sustainably focused not just on economic factors but also on human resources and their relationship with the surrounding environment. This is possible through the promotion of transparent communications and practices such as discussion with employees and stakeholders, as well as a well developed sustainable HR capability that regularly reviews HR policies to ensure alignment with sustainability principles.

Regular meetings, along with development of strategic HR capability, that must be well-aligned with the overall strategy of the organisation, are a recipe for higher employee commitment and organisation performance.


You work as a HR consultant in a large company. Your manager approaches you to spread the word around the office about a new initiative to increase the sustainability within the HR core function. You decide to create a flyer that will be displayed around the office.

Create a flyer/poster by either drawing or using images from the internet. Take a photo of your creation and upload it to Instagram with a short caption about your main message. Make sure you hashtag your post using #RMITsustainableHR for other learners to see your creation.

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This article is from the free online course:

Business Futures: Sustainable Business Through Green HR

RMIT University