How HR can be the systemic change vehicle we need in ESG & Sustainability

How HR can be the systemic change vehicle we need in ESG & Sustainability

In recent years, ESG and sustainability has become a top-tier boardroom topic, as companies increasingly recognise the importance of sustainable business practices. Research by Mckinsey shows that businesses who have a strong ESG proposition are likely to benefit from higher returns - higher ESG scores have the potential to safe-guard a company’s long-term success.

It’s no surprise that employee satisfaction is greater in organisations that have “significantly higher ESG scores than their peers” (Marsh McLennan). When employees feel that the organisation they’re working for aligns with their values, they have a greater sense of purpose. They work harder, stick around for longer, and seek to produce better results for that organisation. 

HR departments are in a unique position. The cross functional role they occupy within an organisation means that they have the potential to drive positive change by integrating ESG and sustainability principles into various aspects of an organisation - from talent acquisition and employee engagement, to diversity and inclusion. 

How can HR make the most of the pivotal role they play?

  • Align ESG principles with company culture

By working closely with executive committee peers, HR professionals can ensure that ESG considerations are integrated into the organisation's mission, vision, and strategic objectives. 

This alignment sets the tone for the entire workforce and reinforces the company's commitment to sustainability and responsible practices.

  • Recruit for ESG Competencies

Highlighting the importance of ESG during the recruitment process will attract leaders who align with your plans. You can do this by incorporating ESG competencies into job descriptions, and asking the right questions during the application process and at the interview stage.

Whilst it is critical to do this with leaders, it can work most effectively when tied into all levels of the organisation.

  • Make ESG part of your learning and development programmes

By offering workshops, seminars, and online resources, HR can raise awareness, educate employees about the significance of ESG, and provide them with the necessary knowledge and tools to contribute to sustainable practices. This can empower your employees to become sustainability champions in all areas of the organisation, creating an organic culture around ESG and sustainability. Additionally, HR can partner with external organisations who can deliver specialised training on specific ESG topics. 

  • Engage employees in ESG initiatives

This is crucial if you want your initiatives to be implemented successfully. Design internal communication strategies that effectively convey the organisation's ESG goals and initiatives; from regular newsletters, intranet portals, town hall meetings, and other platforms, all activity will help foster dialogue and transparency. You can also encourage employee participation in ESG-related activities, such as volunteering for environmental causes or supporting social impact projects.

  • Lead Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts

DEI is an integral part of ESG. HR can lead diversity and inclusion efforts by ensuring fair and equitable hiring practices, promoting a diverse workforce, and fostering an inclusive work environment. Policies and programmes can be created that support underrepresented groups and create opportunities for their advancement within the business. By valuing diversity and fostering inclusion, companies can enhance their overall ESG performance.


  • Incorporate ESG metrics into performance evaluations

Rewarding and recognising employees who actively promote ESG practices reinforces the importance of sustainability and encourages continuous improvement. It can help employees feel more connected to the organisation’s overall goals and give them a greater sense of purpose - making for happier, more productive employees.

As the focus on ESG continues to grow, HR departments have a unique opportunity to shape and drive sustainable business practices within organisations. Where we have seen this work most effectively, HR functions have made a significant impact on building a more sustainable and responsible future for businesses and acted as the vehicle for sustained change.  

To understand more about how GS2 can support you on this journey, please get in touch.

We are GS2 Partnership, a global talent solutions organisation on a critical journey to connect the people who believe in leaving the world better than they found it. As a certified B Corp pending organisation, we support organisations of all size and scales across the UK, Europe and US. Our solutions attract, assess, onboard and retain leaders within their Executive Teams along with Impact investing, ESG, sustainability, corporate affairs, communication and responsible business functions.