Green HR

Denis Boulais shares his research findings into what HR strategies may improve environmental management systems.

Denis Boulais shares his research findings into what HR management strategies may improve environmental management systems.

The adoption of environmental management systems and compliance to the relevant environmental management standard (ISO 14001) is continuing to increase across the globe.

It has been shown that the benefits associated with this adoption include improved organisational culture, more efficient operational performance, enhanced teamwork, and in many cases cost reductions. This, in line with the latest environmental management standard, is causing organisations to further analyse risks and opportunities in this area leading to improved environmental management systems.

The term ‘Green HR’ is being used more and more frequently nowadays. It essentially means the use of human resources policies to promote the sustainable use of resources within business organisations and more generally promote the cause of environmental sustainability. This had lead me to conduct some research into what HR management strategies may improve environmental management systems.

My research is summarised below with references provided for further reading.


  • It was found by survey research that an organisation’s ethical behaviour may be favoured by its workforce. The survey identified that respondents would prefer employment with an ethically sound firm such as the Cancer Council than a cigarette company even if wages were less (Frank, 2003).
  • Another study identified ethical organisations attracted responsible employees. Given the choice of employment with a socially responsible organisation as opposed to a non-socially responsible organisation – new recruits would rather join a green organisation where wages where similar between the organisations (Brekke and Nyborg, 2008).
  • Another study examined the strength of an organisation’s commitment towards environmental sustainability. According to the research, it was identified that when an organisation takes a strong positive stance on environment, then more job applications are received and candidates are more likely to accept job offers (Bauer and Aiman-Smith, 1996).


  • A study of 16 companies across five countries identified that where employees were offered green reward incentives, employees were more inclined to follow green management principles (Taylor et al.,1992).
  • In another study, employees at a large chemical company were surveyed to ascertain the impact of pollution control and employee involvement. It was found employees were more motivated to propose innovative waste management ideas where incentivised with rewards (Denton, 1999).


  • Data collected from 91 organisations in Brazil identified that motivation, recruitment, and rewards are important human dimensions which led to improved implementation of green management principles (Jabbour et al.,2010).
  • Another study examined nine ISO 14001 certified organisations via interviews. It was identified good green management practice was linked with good organisational culture, training and teamwork. This study also identified strong relationships between environmental management training and higher levels of commitment across the organisation (Teixeira et al.,2012).
  • Another study examined the importance of environmental training on business value. Two different organisations were compared to identify the effectiveness of a general environmental training program. One organisation conducted the training and the other organisation didn’t, despite this however the level of environmental knowledge was still the same between the two organisations. From this is was concluded that environmental training courses need to be specialised and customised to the respective organisation with methods in place to evaluate the effectiveness of the training (Perron and Cote, 2006).


  • One study aimed to establish the impact of empowerment of employees and its link to an organisation’s environmental performance. The study identified that training, empowerment and teamwork had a positive impact upon the environmental performance of the organisation (Daily et al., 2012).
  • Another study aimed to determine a manufacturing organisation’s internal drivers relating to environmental awareness. The study identified that promotion of an effective environmental management program is dependent upon the level of feedback that is returned in relation to environmental issues. It was concluded that feedback improves employee awareness of their environmental responsibilities (Chinander, 2001).


It is evident some management practices can improve environmental awareness and be of benefit to both an employer and an employee. Some of the benefits of applying management principles to environmental management include:

  • Becoming an employer of choice
  • Improved environmental innovation
  • Improved organisational culture
  • Improved green training programs
  • Improved feedback channels

It is hoped this small research analysis of the link between human resources and environmental sustainability has been of interest and may assist in the improvement of your environmental management system.

This first appeared in the September/October issue of INCLEAN magazine

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  1. T. N and Aiman-Smith. L (1996). Career choices: the influences of ecological stance on recruiting. Journal Business and Psychology. 10:445-458.
  2. K. A and Nyborg. K (2008). Attracting responsible employees: green production as labor market screening. Resource and Energy Economics. 30:509-536.
  3. K. R (2001). Aligning accountability and awareness for environmental performance in operations. Production and Operations Management. 10:276-291.
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  6. R. H (2003). What Price for Moral High Ground? Ethical Dilemmas in the Competitive environment. Princeton University Press.
  7. C. J. C , Santos. F. C. A, Nagano. M. S (2010). Contributions of HRM throughout the stages of environmental management: methodological triangulation applied to companies in Brazil. International Journal Resource Management. 21: 1049-1089.
  8. R. P and Cote. J. F (2006). Improving environmental awareness training in business. Journal of Cleaner Production. 14:551-562.
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