People, planet and profits

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As far as incentivising employees goes, HR needs to try and maximise the contribution which their employees’ talents can make to the success of the organisation. A company and its employees need to share the same values while the approach to doing business and targets has to take account of longer term social and environmental goals as well as short term financial objectives. For example, SC Johnson has built eco-efficiency, sustainability and awareness of the environmental impact of the products it uses into its staff training while similar considerations are also built into management’s bonus schemes.

Working at WBCSD

Eric Dérobert
Director, Finance and Administration, WBCSD

WBCSD currently employ 54 people, including those on secondment.

Typical employee profile:
People with extensive and varied experience in business
People who do not necessarily have a business background but who can apply their specific experience in project work or perhaps in education or communications in WBCSD
People seconded from member companies who stay between 1 and 3 years. WBCSD has welcomed over 30 of these so far. For example, the former Head of the Development Focus Area was from BP; someone from Toyota led the Sustainable Mobility for Development work stream.
Vacancies are notified to member companies. To ensure continuity of knowledge, WBCSD look for permanent staff to fill key positions.
At the same time, people can be recruited externally from job advertisements eg the Media manager.

Internships – 3 per year. Numbers are limited by coaching capacity, finance and the need to divide the workload to provide meaningful work. In addition, work visas can also be difficult to obtain.

As a result of the credit crisis, WBCSD are not actively looking to recruit at present. However, they always welcome CVs from qualified candidates.

Finally, HR has to identify the competencies which are required to fulfil a company’s strategy as well as dealing with a changing competitive environment. As already mentioned, the need for employees to consider environmental, social and economic angles when taking a sustainable development approach to business can help build important skills – for example, leadership, team work and problem-solving – which are transferable to a wide range of situations. Although there are different methods of providing training in sustainable development, which can vary according to the function and responsibility of different posts, there also has to be a common set of values throughout the company to make sure that the philosophy is fully integrated into people management. For instance, the carpet manufacturer Interface has a training programme which requires all their employees to evaluate how they can work more sustainably and at the same time, has modules which are job specific. Procter and Gamble have a programme, “Take the ‘R’ (Responsibility) for Tomorrow”, which promotes smarter workplace habits. One aspect encourages all employees to think about how they travel to work and what energy they use. The idea is then to link their own personal values to the values of the company and so bring a sustainability mindset into the business.

WBCSD and human resources

The WBCSD help businesses identify issues which can be addressed in the workplace through talent management and capacity building strategies to address their strategic goals and generate long-term value.
According to Katherine, “we help build the business case for sustainability and teach that to companies. We work with our member companies to build the skills with the objective of helping businesses innovate and grow. We provide supporting material and tools to achieve these goals.”

Two such tools helping to integrate sustainable development into people management in the entire organisation, are Chronos and the Future Leaders Team:

Chronos is an e-learning tool created with the Cambridge Programme for Industry. It aims to raise employee awareness and build the business case for sustainable development. Companies are able to customise the tool so it fits their own business model and to date, 250 000 licences have been distributed.

The WBCSD’s Future Leaders Team (FLT) aims to raise awareness of sustainable development in a targetted group of future business leaders from companies operating around the world. The objective is for the members of this group to become effective ambassadors for sustainable development through experiential learning, knowledge creation and the building of their networks and skills. The success of this programme in identifying, shaping and influencing future leaders is evidenced by the fact that 200 sustainability representatives have graduated into the alumni network over the last seven years.

‘Businesses cannot succeed in a society that fails’ – the challenges ahead for sustainable development

The WBCSD believe that businesses today recognise both the need for sustainable development and also the imperative that they are sustainable themselves since, “business cannot succeed in a society that fails”.
Ms Madden again, “Although there are hard times ahead and climate change is one of the most difficult challenges, I am positive of the business community’s capacity to contribute infrastructure, resources and efficiencies to sustainable development….and hopeful that governments will start to provide the frameworks and incentives that we need to make that happen”.

Human resource managers then, have the challenge of producing a strategy for sustainable development within their companies which takes into account the key stakeholders – the company itself, employees, investors, shareholders, customers, communities and governments.

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