5 key steps HR leaders can take to support their organisation’s Net Zero transition

Written by Malvi Goyal

The role of Human Resources (HR) is changing. As businesses ramp up their Net Zero transition efforts, HR teams are being required to ensure their organisations have the necessary skills and competencies to act on sustainability strategies, and that employees are working in unison towards a common goal.

In an interview with People Matters, our Head of Climate School for APAC, Shalmalee Nath, explained why, as Indian firms push towards Net Zero, HR leaders in the country have a particularly tough job cut out for them, and offered guidance on the steps to take for a smoother transition.

An organisation’s commitment to be Net Zero represents a big and potentially daunting undertaking for HR professionals around the world. In this article, Shalmalee has summarised the five key takeaways from her interview with People Matters that are important for all HR leaders to know.

1. It’s OK to check your understanding on the Net Zero Transition

An organisation’s transition to Net Zero can be complicated, multipronged, and expensive. It will require HR leaders to first understand the charter of the executive team and the sustainability team, and the various challenges they will have to navigate  on the organisation’s journey to Net Zero. What is the end goal and how will it impact the business? Educating yourself and your team about the issues and the implications is critical.

HR leader can then become climate change communicators, bridging the gap between different departments to ensure initiatives are aligned, and supporting employees that might be resistant or anxious about the impact it will have on their day-to-day jobs or way of life. Change can be difficult but by creating a forum for employees to discuss the Net Zero journey and share ideas, suggestions and concerns, HR leaders can identify the challenges that need to be addressed.

2. Be proactive in upskilling and reskilling employees

Although some degree of disruption is inevitable, HR teams can help minimise anxiety or uncertainty by making sure that employees are informed about the organization’s Net Zero journey, the reason for change and the implications for their jobs.

Training and development opportunities must also be proactively offered to upskill and reskill employees, and set the right foundation for the Net Zero transition. Adopting greener ways of working will require specific technical, cognitive and leadership skills, and HR teams should consider how a structured training and development programme can help to cultivate new capabilities. To provide a real world example, HR Leaders at HCL Tech worked with Climate School to launch The HCLTech Sustainability School to its 220,000+ strong workforce. The school is raising awareness and fostering positive behavioural changes. Such initiatives also empower employees to become sustainability advocates.

3. Unite departments to align on goals 

Training is undoubtedly fundamental, but no organisation can achieve its climate commitments unless everyone is clear on the end goal and working in unison to achieve it. Building synergy between different functions and teams is crucial.

Establishing a cross-functional team or taskforce is one way to facilitate collaboration and alignment across the business on the Net Zero measures that are to be implemented. This cross-functional team needs to include all key functional areas including HR, operations, finance, procurement, marketing, risk, and sustainability, and should be responsible for creating a shared Net Zero vision and action plan that is clearly communicated to stakeholders and employees.

4. Review or revamp company policies and practices

Company policies can be a very powerful tool for Net Zero compliance. Business travel, commuting, office working, and employee benefits are all areas where changes can support an organisation’s climate commitments. For example, by monitoring carbon budgets, reducing business trips, creating bike-friendly workplaces, offering remote working, or providing discounts on green products.

Tech Mahindra India is one good example of how policy can reinforce sustainability efforts. By facilitating virtual meetings and establishing policies to reduce travel frequency or encourage low-emission modes of transport, the HR team is helping to support the organisation’s objective of a 50% reduction in scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030.

5. And finally, utilise training resources!

Climate action will continue to change the way that businesses get work done. HR departments have an increasingly pivotal role in driving awareness and empowering employees with the skills they need to navigate the transition.

If your organisation is moving towards Net Zero, you will need to learn about the issues and the implications for your organisation, as well as identify the best path to educating your workforce on why these changes are essential. While this can feel like a big ask, there are many resources and partners available to help guide HR leaders that don’t know where to start.

Climate School for example offers a range of training products designed to support the individual learning needs of companies and, ultimately, empower HR departments with the tools to enable meaningful action. By giving employees the desire and the means to become involved in the sustainable transformation, HR leaders can help mobilise the collective action that is needed to be Net Zero.


Read the full interview in People Matters ici..

And if you want to know more about the new green jobs that are emerging and how existing roles are being transformed, check out this blog and our other resources.