How the climate crisis is transforming HR

HR is changing forever, and the chance is there to be a true pioneer. And no, I’m not talking about embracing AI and ChatGPT.

Decarbonisation and the move to net zero will affect all our working lives, and HR professionals will be firmly at the forefront as every person’s job, moving forwards, will start to include a green aspect.

The parallel to consider here is digital transformation.

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There, no matter what the formal position’s title, staff had to be educated in using computers and empowered to make their own contribution to the organisation’s successful adoption of more digital ways of working.

The same thing, on a much, much bigger scale, is going to happen in organisations as they all pivot to greener ways of working.

Looking specifically at what this will look like, AXA Climate has just released a whitepaper with LittleBig Connection showcasing the professionals who exemplify this, either holding a brand new job or one that has rapidly transformed by the climate crisis.


A case study

Our report looked specifically at a HR director called Xavier Molinié, part of the management team at a French tech firm called Goodays.

Goodays markets a customer interaction management platform used by companies inclusing Domino's and New Look.

Molinié told us that he is already preparing for the introduction the new skills required for the company's transition to more sustainable ways of working.

This work involves the expansion of the Goodays corporate social responsibility (CSR) team and the conscious acquisition of new skills in green IT, so-called ‘carbon accounting’ i.e. calculating how much greenhouse gas an organisation emits, and new methods of communication around what both managers and employees need to be doing to radically reduce the firm’s impact on the environment.

This exemplifies exactly how HR as an operation is changing, with professionals starting to work outside of the traditional HR job description.

For most, the prominent and notable changes will likely take place in the way people are brought into an organisation, and how current employees are upskilled.


Recruiting will change forever

There are lots of green jobs are emerging: such as environmental marketing manager, statutory auditor specialised in carbon footprint analysis or climate data scientist.

In fact, some experts believe climate change is set to create 24 million completely new jobs by 2030.

HR already needs to be researching what kinds of sustainability roles could be needed by their organisations, in their sectors and with their strategies.

At the same time, it is important to avoid focusing too much exotic jobs at the expense of seeing how even the most mundane job description will need to be extended or changed by green issues.

Accountants, financial analysts, lawyers, buyers, developers, and, yes, the building maintenance function, all these jobs are going to have to fall in line with new standards and best practices.

Young people are already insisting they only want to work for brands they think are serious about fighting back against cataclysmic climate change, and their entry to the workforce will start driving change.

In 2030, onboarding will look completely different.

On top of all regular tasks done today; new hires will be taken through a company’s environmental stance in detail.

Here, HR will talk about the path chosen to achieve these goals and how these are in line with the employee’s job-specific role.


Upskilling HR and existing employees

It is HR leaders’ responsibility to start thinking now about what knowledge and reskilling help will be needed for existing employees – including themselves.

HR might find they don’t know all the answers here. But now is the time to reach out to colleagues in CSR, start a dialogue to self-educate and get the rest of the HR team up to speed.

Once a clear picture is formed the challenge is to get the rest of the company onboard, with the motivation and skills to take action.  Training from external providers can be helpful.

When upskilling, it's vital to ensure employees understand the business's environmental goals through clear and consistent communication.

Actively listen to their feedback and maintain ongoing transparency.

To help with this, identify environmentally conscious employees who can serve as climate ambassadors and potentially take on new environmental roles.

Additionally, incentivising environmental targets by incorporating them into individual objectives and compensation can foster engagement and motivation among employees.

Just as digital transformation revolutionised organisations in recent decades, the shift to greener ways of working will require HR to educate and empower all of a company’s people.

The climate crisis is changing the world of work, and HR leaders have the opportunity to become pioneers.


Celli Lloyd is UK country manager at AXA Climate