Tech Insights: When Does HR Need to Get Involved In Sustainability?

Sustainability reporting sits at the edge of the world of HR.

Issues like diversity land squarely into HR’s domain, whereas issues like child labor have an HR component but are more a matter of law and governance.

Sustainability matters to me as an HR professional because the sustainability movement has made a lot more progress in pushing forward non-financial reporting, and human capital reporting is following along in its wake.

Even companies that are not public corporations and who may have no special interest in sustainability are being pushed to report on their sustainability initiatives.

A much bigger push for some

One push comes from the damage to reputation that comes from seeming not to care about the public interest. However, there is a much, much bigger push for some: Large companies feel responsibility to their supply chain, and hence, demand that suppliers disclose their sustainability activities and outcomes.

It is not clear where a request for a report on sustainability will land in a small or mid-sized company. Perhaps it will show up on the desk of the CFO or the head of sales or the CEO, but one way or another, those parts of the report dealing with HR issues will eventually land on the desk of the head of HR.

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I imagine hearing a sigh from HR leaders because no matter how much they support sustainability this is yet another demand on their time and budget. Furthermore it’s likely an area where they have limited experience.

Is it time to call in the consultants? Perhaps not. A well-designed website can go a long way towards guiding HR leaders on how to launch sustainability initiatives and report on them (see Sustrana.com, now open to beta testers).

In the case of Sustrana the most important feature is the rich content, but add in roadmaps, some consulting advice and a few tools and suddenly you may find that you have all you need to get the job done. With the right tools, sustainability isn’t as hard as we may have feared.

What is interesting?

  • It is interesting to see how much a product like Sustrana is a labor of love. We tend to think of business in commercial terms, but in fact much of what I see in HR technology start-ups is driven by a passion that goes deeper than a desire to make money.

What is really important?

  • “How to” books are an old technology, and an enduring one. However, when we take the how-to approach to the web, with all the potential power of technology to make something much smarter than a book, we approach a point where it can begin to edge out work that would have formerly been done by a consultant.

David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research, is a globally recognized thinker on people analytics and talent management. Some of his more interesting projects included:

  • Conducted workshops around the world on the practical aspects of people analytics
  • Took business leaders from Japan’s Recruit Co. on a tour of US tech companies (Recruit eventually bought Indeed.com for $1 billion)
  • Studied the relationship between Boards and HR (won Walker Award)
  • Spoke at the World Bank in Paris on HR reporting
  • Co-authored Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan. The book was endorsed by the CHROs of IBM, LinkedIn and Starbucks.
  • Worked with Dr. Wanda Wallace on “Leading when you are not the expert” which topped the “Most Popular List” on the Harvard Business Review’s blog.
  • Worked with Dr. Henry Mintzberg on peer coaching, David’s learning modules are among the most popular topics.

Currently David is helping organizations to get on-track with people analytics.

This work led to him being made a Fellow for the Centre of Evidence-based Management (Netherlands) for his contributions to the field.

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