HR Solutions
23 November 2023

Sustainable HR: a three-dimensional model

by Tom Deloose

There was a time when there was little talk of HR and sustainability. About a century ago, modern HR management emerged, followed by the rise of sustainability in our lives and businesses. More recently, the two concepts have become increasingly intertwined. Sustainable HR is therefore seen as the trend in strategic HR policy for the coming years. But what does it mean and how can you apply it in your own organisation?

Three dimensions

It is not easy to give a definition of sustainable HR, but in this article we will give it a try. "A sustainable HR policy is a three-dimensional policy that seeks to integrate certain relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals through employees into the company and into the bigger chain in which the company operates". Let's focus on the three-dimensional aspect for a moment.

In the first dimension, sustainable HR focuses on employees as recipients. Think of talent management, fair pay and equal opportunities. In a second dimension, employees become active participants in the sustainability policy by taking individual or collective action relating to the environment, social equity, health and vitality. The company then acts as a facilitator, but also as a regulator. If individuals continue to behave in ways that are not sustainable, progress will be hampered. It is therefore important to include sustainability in monthly, quarterly or annual discussions with employees.

In a third and final dimension, a sustainability policy also involves the bigger chain in which the company operates. This can be achieved, for example, by creating a learning network between the company, its customers and its suppliers through its employees. Sharing knowledge creates a new, more sustainable dynamic.

Three-dimensional model

From theory to practice

As with many HR related topics, you take it one step at a time. Choosing is winning! Identify what is really important to you as an organisation and start from there. You develop a three-dimensional model by choosing one aspect per dimension and thinking about the actions you want to take to give it shape, both at a high level and at an individual level. Once you know that, focus on those actions for a year until they become a good habit. You can then add new elements from year to year.

Finally, we would like to emphasise that many companies are already working on a sustainable HR policy, even if they don't always realise it themselves. The many requests we receive to carry out wage studies, set up fair recruitment processes or implement clear communication lines show that companies feel the need to act more sustainable, also in terms of HR. Let this be an encouragement!

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