Corporate Sustainability and Cultural Congruence - Does it Really Matter?

Guest Contributorby Lizz Pellet | Posted | Culture

Corporate Sustainability and Cultural Congruence - Does it Really Matter?

We’ve all heard that green is the new black (except those of you who think orange is the new black). Just like organizational culture was touted in the ‘90s as essential for business success, corporate sustainability and corporate social responsibility seems to have taken its place during this decade.

It's good to be green. That's what a lot of companies are finding as they integrate environmentalism and sustainability into their corporate culture. Not only is corporate sustainability good for the community and the planet, it can also help employees reduce waste and operate more efficiently.

While companies tout their environmental initiatives in annual reports, core values and community activities, they often fail to leverage their environmental efforts in one key area: recruiting. And that’s a missed opportunity because studies show that a commitment to sustainability can be a factor the most desirable candidates weigh when choosing an employer.

Ah but before you jump on the green HR bandwagon and begin promoting your organization as such through your recruiting efforts, you need to think carefully about whether it truly is a priority for your organization.

Corporate social responsibility — does it fit your corporate culture?

Should your organization increase how it promotes sustainability efforts? Maybe. Here are some points worth pondering:

1. Does corporate sustainability truly matter to your organization? Is it congruent to your culture? Is the importance demonstrated through your organization’s policies, operations and programs? Is it reinforced through the actions of senior leadership? If not, don’t expect employees to embrace it or buy into its supposed importance.

2. Does it matter to the top talent you’re looking to attract? As I mentioned above, corporate sustainability can be a factor candidates use to evaluate their interest in your organization, but this isn’t always the case. You need to determine if corporate social responsibility is important enough to the top talent you’re seeking and if so, what you can do to truly demonstrate it. E.g. How do you promote your organization’s green initiatives and programs? Do you use any green recruiting practices? (e.g. see next point).

3. Have thought about how your organization can implement green recruiting practices? There’s a lot of conflicting information out there on how to adopt green HR and how to apply it to recruiting practices. While there’s no standard way to embrace it, let’s start with social networking.

Gone are the days of calling up the local newspaper and placing an ad. Even job boards are losing market share to organizations that are doing their own candidate searches via social. Case in point: LinkedIn. This professional networking site has cornered the market on the latest recruiting practices making it easy for recruiters to source and reach out to candidates.

Twitter and Facebook are increasingly becoming a recruiting option as well. These two social sites are continually adding new search functionality and ways to dive deeper into user information.

Granted, some of the functionality on Twitter and Facebook may not be as effective as what LinkedIn offers (e.g. because of user privacy settings and the fact Facebook isn’t comprehensively spidered by search engines) but they’re still recruiting tools to be leveraged.  

Example: You may already know about the tweet the National Security Agency (NSA) shared in May from its @NSACareers Twitter account:

This tweet is a great example of an organization reaching out via social media to attract the best and brightest candidates.

Keep in mind that creating a green recruiting function can be a significant cost saving too. As the economy regains strength and companies begin to hire at their pre-recession levels again, the focus will be on finding the best qualified candidate with the right cultural fit. Social media sites are great tool to leverage for this purpose.

Green HR only works in the context of cultural congruence

There are many ways the top green organizations demonstrate commitment, but the one thing they all have in common is how they’ve rolled sustainability into their values. This is where cultural congruence comes into play.

If your organization wants to embrace sustainability, then it must become an organizational value. This isn’t about adding the “please consider the environment before printing” footer to your emails and thinking you’ve done enough. Commitment in actions and stated values are where you need to be.

If your organization touts an environmentally friendly mission or emphasizes sustainability in your consumer advertising, then you better have a sustainable HR function! There are some companies that make a half-hearted attempt at greenwashing, but incongruence in words and actions can be detected a mile away by today’s savvy job seeker. 

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