Today, more than 36% of HR and business leaders in SEA said social enterprise issues are more important to their organisation than they were three years ago, found Deloitte's ninth annual Global Human Capital Trends report. Additionally, 56% in SEA and globally expected these issues to be even more important three years from now.

A similar situation can be seen when it comes to environmental issues, with companies such as Citi Singapore, Henkel, and Schneider Electric doing their part to ensure and promote sustainability in their respective businesses.

Supporting and implementing initiatives to combat climate change

With Singapore having designated 2018 as the Year of Climate Action, Citi Singapore submitted its pledge to contribute to Singapore’s Sustainable Future goals by supporting and implementing green initiatives to combat climate change.

Part of this comes in the form of environmental finance, where Citi has committed to lending, investing and facilitating US$100 billion over 10 years from 2014 to 2023 to activities focused on environmental solutions and reducing the impacts of climate change globally.

In addition, Citi has earmarked 2020 as the year for its global operations to be 100% powered or be carbon neutral by renewable energy. Key green initiatives include reducing energy usage and the designation of April as the "Earth Month". Citi also formed a green/sustainability committee which comprises representatives from different business functions. The committee is tasked with the sustained engagement and education of Citi employees around climate action.

Ambassadors of sustainability

Sustainability is one of Henkel's five core values and a top priority for the Singapore hub.

The German chemical and consumer goods company behind well-known brands including Loctite, Schwarzkopf, and Persil, has a daily Earth Hour whereby lights are switched off during lunch hour, a ‘Bring Your Own Cup’ initiative, as well as centralised waste bins to eliminate the use of more than 13,000 plastic bags a year. Apart from that, all of Henkel's employees in Singapore have pledged for climate action in 2018, and employees have been trained to be sustainability ambassadors.

This year, in support of World Water Day (22 March 2019), Henkel Singapore partnered Nurture Education Group, Girl Guides Singapore, and Fernvale Gardens School to conduct school visits to spread the message of water conservation as well as reduce, reuse and recycle to 235 children across the ages of 5 to 13 years old.

A carbon-neutral HQ by mid 2020

Earlier this month, Schneider Electric, global specialist in energy management and automation, announced announced that their regional headquarters at Kallang Avenue is set to be 100% carbon-neutral by mid 2020. This is six months ahead of its original schedule of end 2020, and 10 years ahead of their global timeline.

Globally, the building will also be first among thousands of Schneider Electric buildings in the world to be carbon neutral. Schneider Electric is aiming to be carbon neutral and to fully run its buildings on renewable electricity by 2030.

Damien Dhellemmes, Singapore Country President at Schneider Electric, said: “It is not that difficult to be carbon neutral - one can simply switch from using electricity to solar energy. The challenge here is making the switch to renewable energy at an economically viable and sustainable level.”

Three tips on how your organisation can play a part

On the back of the three-day Earth Hour 2019 festival organised by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in March, Human Resources spoke to Kim Stengert, Chief, Strategic Communication and External Relations, WWF-Singapore, for tips on what HR and organisations can do to help conserve the environment.

Q What are three things organisations can do from a HR perspective to help conserve the environment?

Sustainability is about transformation We are seeing a shift among businesses – as well as their customers and partners – to move beyond traditional notions of corporate social responsibility. The World Economic Forum already outlines four environmental issues as the largest risks to business. There is a growing understanding that in order for economies to succeed, nature has to thrive. Businesses can no longer turn a blind eye on the negative impacts of their supply and value chains. Sustainability has to become everyone’s KPI and businesses have to ensure their practices do not come at the expense of the natural environments we all depend on. This transformation needs to start from within the organisation.

Walk the talk Sustainable choices can be made everywhere, and to build a culture of sustainability, you have to walk the talk on a daily basis. For example, WWF-Singapore has implemented  multiple office policies – this includes initiatives on practicing carbon offset in our operations, serving vegetarian and plant-based meals only, eliminating  unnecessary single use plastics and strong sourcing policies requiring certified sustainable materials.

Involve everyone in the change Meaningful organisational change towards sustainability has to be both management-led and ground-up. In every single business that we’ve partnered with, successful initiatives always involve staff at all levels. Staff have to understand why, so Internal communications play a vital role in facilitating the necessary discussions and creating an shared understanding behind sustainability initiatives.

Q By conserving the environment what do organisations stand to gain from a business and employer branding stand point?

Today,  customers, investors and partners expect their favourite brands to be environmentally responsible. If an organisation doesn’t know the environmental problems their raw materials or final products create - or if they choose to ignore it, it is simply bad governance that is not acceptable for any stakeholder. The business and reputational risks go hand in hand.

Beyond branding, sustainability measures also help reduce regulatory risk, which may include supplier disruption, direct fines, reputational risks, and restrictions on market access. There are also operational benefit as sustainable businesses can build more resilient supply chains, with greater transparency, and higher quality control. Environmental sustainable is not a nice to have anymore - it is a requirement for long term financial sustainability.