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Responsible Business: HR only becomes involved when a climate change project is ready for roll-out

Who owns climate change in your organisation?

Anecdotal evidence suggests HRDs are often on the periphery in designing and measuring any such projects that organisations are undertaking.

This is a surprise. Climate change should be a priority for all UK private and public-sector companies. Cutting carbon dioxide emissions is now legally binding. Large firms, those with emissions above 6,000 megawatt hours, have had to participate in the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme since 1 April. And if regulatory pressure isn't enough to make climate change a critical issue then how about the results of HSBC's staff survey as a fillip to HRDs?

Tracking the impact of its Climate Champions project (visit www.hrmagazine.co.uk to read the case study), it found 91% of those who have taken part are more likely to recommend HSBC as an employer. That's compelling stuff.

But talk to smaller organisations and the picture is less clear. Take Stockton Borough Council. It has a pledge-based project among staff to save energy, save money and cut CO2. In just one week it signed up approximately 10% of its workforce. The council is immensely proud that it is on target to reduce its emissions by 10% this year. It has created a powerful network of climate champions, but HR has not been involved at all.

I put the question about HRD involvement to the organisers of 10:10, the national campaign to encourage business and individuals to reduce their carbon by 10% in 2010: 10:10 - get it? (see www.1010global.org). They concurred that to date only a few of the large companies have fully engaged HR within their climate change initiatives. By this I mean active participation in the design of the project, understanding employee concerns and issues, setting objectives and linking the outputs into appraisals.

The problem seems to lie with who owns the climate change issue. Ownership can span environmental management, sustainability, facilities management and IT. HR - and corporate communications - all too often only become involved when the project is ready for roll-out.

This should trouble you. There is arguably no greater challenge to readers of this magazine than the impact of climate change on their business or brand, in the private, public or the charitable sector.

So, HRDs: are you ready to build climate champions? Your organisation and our planet needs you.

- Michael Saxton is founder of Greenpoint PR.