HR must step up to the climate challenge

England is traditionally not very good at breaking records. Our football team never seems to lift the trophy (until this year), our transport links aren’t always on time and our happiness levels… well, we’re very British about them.

Yet when Coningsby in Lincolnshire reported temperatures of 40.3°C on 19 July, it was a record no one cheered for. Why?

Because it proved what we all secretly know but try to forget: the earth is getting warmer as a direct consequence of our actions. And not just for the poor polar bears and penguins, but for every creature on this strange planet of ours. 

Sustainability in HR:

Earth Day: how HR can use sustainability to attract top talent

How can HR introduce more environmentally friendly benefits?

How HR can help hit the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

This isn’t a lecture on why you should care – if you don’t by now, then there’s nothing a few column inches can do to change your mind.

But as HR professionals who deal with people, one of the greatest challenges of the future will be how your people deal with this climate emergency. So it’s time to get ready for this. 

July’s heatwave proved how challenging working in extreme heat can be. Railroads were shut, buildings set on fire and the roads literally melted.

Caring about the environment is no longer just separating your recycling out or remembering to pack a reusable water bottle, but a genuine, joined-up approach from all areas of society – including the workplace.  

The good news is there are things HR can do, as explored on our upcoming news analysis feature (check back tomorrow) which looks at greenwashing by businesses and the changes organisations can make to create more environmentally friendly companies

The better news is that good work is already being done, with HR professionals up and down working tirelessly to better understand how sustainability can be used to drive growth and recovery. 

Don’t let the sleep-deprived nights and cold showers be for nothing. Use the lessons of the heatwave to create some change in your organisation, before you’re dealing with physical rather than hypothetical firefighting.


Jo Gallacher is editor of HR magazine

This article was first published in the July/August 2022 issue of HR magazine. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.