What is the role of leaders in creating environmentally sustainable organisations?  

Reflective Paper's author, Dr Andrew Bratton

In post-Covid Scotland, organisational leaders and human resource professionals are beginning to recognise that the ‘new normal’ requires them to reflect on their business values and management practices.

In the latest paper from Edinburgh Napier Business School’s series of Reflective Learning Papers on Leadership and People Practice, Dr Andrew Bratton introduces the concept of sustainable human resource management.

In ‘Leading Environmental Change: A Sustainable Human Resource Management Approach’, he reflects on the role of environmental leadership, employee voice and organisational culture in supporting environmental sustainability, and how this is closely connected to organisational change. Markus Hiemann, Sustainability Manager, then presents a case study example of the role of leadership and organisational culture in supporting the implementation of environmental sustainability initiatives in a conference centre within the NHS Scotland.

A sophisticated sustainability strategy should focus on improving environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance in the areas in which the organisation has a material environmental or social impact (e.g., operations, supply chain, or customers). To measure the business impact of organisations, sustainability leaders are encouraged to use the SDG Action Manager, a free confidential online tool used to measure and manage their social and environmental impact.

This case study highlights the critical importance of leadership and organisational culture in fostering a culture of learning for sustainability.

Focus has been given to the potential for employee involvement and “voice” mechanisms in the building of a culture of learning for sustainability, and employees’ engagement in pro-environmental behaviour. For example, the appointment of environmental ‘champions’ and ‘green teams’ enabled individual and group learning opportunities in support of the change process.

Additionally, the case study suggests that representative forms of participation are also associated with the success of environmental activities, especially in unionised public sector organisations.

The key positive lesson to be learned is that leadership, effective employee voice and fostering a culture of learning for sustainability contributes to organisational sustainability.

For more information about the SDG Action Manager, or to discuss research related ideas or collaboration, please contact Dr Andrew Bratton: a.bratton@napier.ac.uk.

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