CEOs Say HR Practices Key to Sustainable Businesses

By Bill Leonard May 7, 2015
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Nearly 150 CEOs at some of the world’s largest and highest profile companies expressed their support for sustainable busine​ss practices in the Business Roundtable’s latest report,Create, Grow, Sustain: Leading by Example. In the report, many of these corporate leaders highlighted their organizations’ human resource efforts as essential to building and maintaining sustainable businesses.

The Business Roundtable’s 2015 sustainability report features narratives from 148 CEOs on how their companies are promoting sustainable business practices and attempting to improve the quality of life in communities across the United States and around the globe. Throughout the report, the CEOs provide a wide range of examples detailing how their organizations have reduced their carbon footprint and saved money by encouraging and adopting environmentally sound business strategies.

Dozens of CEOs outlined HR-related policies that have had a direct impact on their organizations’ efforts to build a sustainable business. A prime example of how an HR-related policy has become integral to business sustainability strategies was provided by Ajita Rajendra, chairman and CEO at A.O. Smith Corp., a worldwide manufacturer of residential and commercial water heating equipment. According to Rajendra, the company has developed several incentive programs that are specifically designed to encourage employees to follow sustainability and resource conservation practices while they are on the job.

One of these incentive programs is called the Chairman’s Green Star Award, which is presented annually to the employees of the A.O. Smith plant that reduces the most energy and water consumption over a 12-month period.

“A.O. Smith is in a unique position to address the issue of sustainability, as a global water technology company,” said Rajendra in the report. “We have placed our emphasis on products, plants and people, as we work to develop sustainable solutions for our customers and employees.”

Another example of sustainable business practices supported by HR includes a comprehensive telecommuting program instituted by Aetna Inc. More than 43 percent of the insurance giant’s employees participate in some level of teleworking, which has helped to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. According to Aetna’s statistics, in 2014, the corporate telework initiative cut down the amount employees drove to work by 127 million miles, which in turn saved 5.3 million gallons of gasoline and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 46,700 metric tons.

Cognizant, an information technology company, concentrates its sustainability practices on nurturing the skills and abilities of its employees, according to CEO Francisco D’Souza. Through employee development programs, the company actively encourages diversity by enhancing opportunities for women, veterans and other minority groups.

The company also actively supports the well-being of its employees and recently expanded its wellness program by organizing “Stepathlon,” a program encouraging employees to walk and count their steps toward better health, as well as “Cognathon,” a running event that was held in multiple cities. More than 10,000 Cognizant employees participated in the 2014 road race.

“Thanks to the dedication of the Cognizant team, we have achieved many successes in education, human potential and the environment,” D’Souza stated in the report. “Through our associates’ passion for innovation, technology expertise and shared sense of purpose, we will keep challenging ourselves to aim higher and do more for our communities, society and planet.”

Bill Leonard is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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