The vast majority of researchers proposes the utilization of engineering techniques and technology to increase the environmental performance. However, when it comes to discussing environmental performance we need not only engineering and technology but also a more interconnected system for tackling with environmental problems. One of the critical part of that system should be the utilization of human resources management.
This suggestion was first made by Walter Whermeyer in 1996 in his book Greening people. In his study, Whermeyer indicates that it is a naive belief that current managerial approaches and uses of technology to solve environmental problems are doing enough to address the issue of environmental protection. He suggests that the greatest benefits in environmental performance are due not to improved technology but people. Following Wehrmeyer’s call, green human resources management (HRM) had emerged as a new research area.
Green HRM is referred to “all the activities involved in development, implementation and on-going maintenance of a system that aims at making employees of an organization green. It is the side of HRM that is concerned with transforming normal employees into green employees so as to achieve environmental goals of the organization and finally to make a significant contribution to environmental sustainability. It refers to the policies, practices and systems that make employees of the organization green for the benefit of the individual, society, natural environment, and the business”. This definition tells us that green HRM is adding some more into classical HRM activities in order to effectively contribute to the environmental performance of an organization. Additionally, this definition is a comprehensive one, in means of emphasizing a systems approach and linking green HRM activities with the well-being of individual, business and society.
Then, the question is what are those activities added in classical HRM activities to achieve a green HRM. Let me give some examples:
- Including environmental dimension as a duty in job description.
- Considering candidates’ environmental concern and interest as selection criteria.
- Incorporating corporate environmental management objectives and targets with the performance evaluation system of the organization.
- Providing training to learn or adapt environmental friendly best practices (e.g. reducing long-distance business travel and recycling).
The academic literature in this area shows us that the greening of Human Resources Management positively affects the environmental performance of the companies. Then it is obvious that we, the HR professionals, have a big responsibility for contributing to the environmental sustainability.