HR departments must be aware of their responsibilities to both their businesses and the wider sustainability movement, says Bengt Johanes Lundberg

The COP26 sustainability goals are centred around both the joint effort of governments and the individual contributions of businesses.

Effective strategy and planning have become one of the core principles vital to environmentally-focused success. This will lead  to the greater involvement HR departments, which have the potential to play a significant role in progress.


What is “net-zero” and how can it be achieved? 

Net-zero means that an organisation or actor is capturing at least as much carbon as it emits, reducing unnecessary energy waste and emissions. And, achieving net-zero will involve a collaborative effort by different business departments to reduce energy usage, avoid unnecessary waste, and form a comprehensive long-term plan for maintaining environmentally friendly practices.  


Why do businesses need to invest in sustainability and efficiency?  

Investment in new technology and long-term strategy is incredibly beneficial to environmentally conscious business practice and the monitoring of sustainability targets.

The short-term dedication of resources to sustainability strategy allows potential for not only better environmental practice, but also better cost management through energy or waste savings.

Technology and data should provide the foundations for sustainability strategy, informing goals and decisions, and should be continually applied to progress reviews.  


Investment in new technology 

Advances in technology have offered businesses multiple new avenues for environmentally conscious strategy. One of the most influential in wider sustainability are smart sensors – which can be fitted in even the oldest of buildings to make them smart and eco-friendly. This, without the need for a business to invest in specific smart equipment like smart desks or chairs.

The total investment required for smart sensors is relatively small, saving businesses money as well as reducing the need to discard or upgrade older technology and equipment. This in turn boosts a business’s sustainability credentials by preventing unnecessary waste.  

Any immediate change in environment can remotely trigger an alert system, informing managers and maintenance employees of an issue before more serious problems emerge, as well as providing insights into where companies can make valuable sustainability-focused changes.


Development of comprehensive strategy 

Therefore, to achieve the goal of net-zero by mid-century, businesses need to create their individual sustainability strategy using the data provided through effective monitoring. For these strategies to be attainable, they must involve specific, measurable, realistic, and trackable targets.

Sustainability strategy should involve every aspect of a business. However, the responsibility of crafting this strategy often falls to financial and HR departments, who can organise the financial effort and employee contributions.  


Financial savings and other business benefits 

Energy use and unnecessary product waste will drive higher business costs, creating an unstable financial environment with narrow profit margins.

Through improved monitoring and a strong focus on sustainability, businesses can accurately review the efficiency of their equipment, quickly identify storage environment issues, and minimise energy loss through ageing architecture or human error.

Evidence-based sustainability strategy and improved environmental awareness are also having an increased impact on business reputation.

Because consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of how their support of certain brands can impact the environment, many are looking to exclusively interact with more eco-friendly businesses. 


How can HR directly impact the success of sustainability goals? 

So, adequate engagement with sustainability strategy requires effective communication, education, and motivation – all of which can be driven through HR teams.

Targets must be clearly communicated to the relevant departments, accompanied by education measures to ensure employees understand how these targets impact the wider business goals.

HR departments also shoulder the responsibility of providing employees with the correct information and training (where required) for the implementation of new measures such as smart technology.

Effective communication and education will ensure that the money invested in long-term sustainability is well applied and used.  


Reward programmes and data monitoring

HR can encourage employee compliance through environmentally-focused reward programs to encourage individuals to commit to these new measures. Performance reviews also typically fall under the responsibilities of the HR department, which provides the opportunity for rewarding individuals for their contributions. 

External to its more traditional responsibilities, HR has the ability to facilitate and overview the formation of problem-solving groups, comprised of employees with the potential to make significant contributions towards sustainability planning and strategy.

Data collected via increased monitoring through smart technology can be presented to HR and passed on to these groups for analysis and practical application.

Areas where energy-saving and efficiency need the most attention can be identified and addressed through informed, specific, and measurable goals, with progress recorded on a regular basis through further data collection.  

Overall, HR will play a key role in the formation and implementation of a sustainability strategy. Through the use of new technology and effective management, data-driven targets can help businesses make the necessary steps to achieving the goals outlined in the COP26 conference. Even small changes in behaviour can make a big difference.





Bengt Johannes Lundberg is the CEO of Disruptive Technologies – a Norwegian company that has been revolutionising the use of sensor technology since its founding in 2013. The integration of these innovative technologies is paving the way towards a more sustainable, safer, and efficient world.