How can businesses become more sustainable?

We are in a climate emergency, and experts from HR magazine’s lunchtime debate yesterday (18 March) argued that HR should be helping businesses to become carbon neutral

EY’s chief innovation officer Harry Gaskell and Tusker’s business development director Alison Argall covered a wide range of topics, and answered questions put to them by the audience.

Climate change is constantly in the headlines, and with the public more engaged in what it can do to reduce societal impact the responsibility is now on businesses to make more sustainable choices.

So what major sustainability issues are businesses facing? Gaskell believed that carbon emissions are one of the largest problems, as that’s what drives climate change.

As EY is a professional services company it uses 80% of its carbon budget flying to meetings with clients, said Gaskell.

“Perhaps we need to find a way of actually talking to our clients more, like I'm talking to you now [online and remotely], rather than getting on the plane and going to see them,” he suggested.

Car benefits company Tusker is a much smaller business than EY and Argall said that because of this it has been able to focus on becoming carbon neutral.

She said Tusker’s main sustainability goal is about switching from high-emission to low-emission vehicles, meaning they could make a significant impact on reducing the company’s carbon emissions.

“Government incentives have been in place for more than a decade at various different stages, but this year with the government's Road to Zero Strategy we are starting to see what is really going to help businesses and get them to recognise how they can make quick wins and a significant reduction in carbon,” said Argall.

The panelists were asked how they thought HR can position itself in the driver's seat to encourage sustainable practice and change.

Gaskell said that he thinks there are two roles that HR can play, the first being recruitment and the second to help build employee support in order to make changes at the top of a business.

"If I were an HR director, I would be wanting to make sure that we are making the changes to the business landscape that are that are going to attract and recruit those people," said Gaskell.

Argall agreed: "If a business is looking to attract the right employees and retain them, they need to give them a range of sustainable benefits that are going to meet the business's goals as well as the overall government goals around reducing carbon," she said.

Also discussed as positive ways businesses can become more sustainable were education around recycling and waste disposal, reducing single-use plastics, and sustainable growth.

More detailed coverage of the webinar will be in the April issue of HR magazine.

Click here to view the webinar.