Green Hrm Rhetoric Or Reality Management Essay

Perhaps at no point of time other than this, people and organisations worldwide have had a greater concern for environment and its protection. This is because of immediate threats and challenges posed by environmental degradation or mere enlightenment of people towards conservation and protection or for any other reason is however not clear. But certainly, the prefix ‘Green’ has found its utility and relevance almost everywhere. In the field of Business Management especially, the usage of ‘Green’ is conspicuous by its presence in almost all sub-fields viz; marketing, operations, production, Information Technology……. Human Resource Management not being an exception over here. In the name of ‘Green Human Resource Management (Green HRM)’ the organizations today have developed human resource policies for promoting environment management initiatives. But how far this has remained rhetoric or a reality needs to be examined. The present case attempts to highlight some of the pertinent problems, issues and challenges in the field of Green HRM and seek answers to some of the vital questions that possibly mitigate the rhetoric and reality of Green HRM policy and practice.


*Associate Professor (HR&OB) – AIMA CME

(Email: [email protected])

** Professor & Director- AIMA CME

(Email: [email protected])


In recent years, a number of scholars have contributed to the understanding of Green HRM (e.g. Berrone & Gomez-Mejia, 2009; Brio, Fernandez & Junquera, 2007; Fernandez,, Junquera, & Ordiz, 2003; Govindarajulu & Daily, 2004; Jabbour & Santos,2008; Jabbour, Santos, & Nagano, 2010; Madsen & Ulhoi, 2001; Massoud, Daily & Bishop, 2008; Ramus, 2001, 2002; Renwick, 2008; Stringer, 2009; Wehrmeyer, 1996). Distinguished policies in the field of recruitment, performance and appraisal management, training and personnel development, employee relations and reward systems are considered powerful tools for aligning employees with a company’s environmental strategy (Renwick, 2008*). Therefore Green HRM can decisively contribute to successful environmental management. Nevertheless, many companies are struggling to effectively advance employees’ environmental behaviour. A discrepancy between environmental policies and actual behavioural patterns in organizational everyday life has been identified as a challenge (e.g. Antoni & Bauer, 2005; Daily, Bishop, & Govindarajulu, 2008; Fernandez, Junquera, & Ordiz, 2003; Ramus, 2001; Riechmann, 2000). It can be assumed that the full potential of Green HRM in theory and practice has not yet been realized. (Muster & Schrader, 2011)

While contemporary HRM already considers the complex array of employees’ work-roles and non-work-roles by developing, for instance, work-life balance policies (e.g. Barnett & Hyde, 2001; Elloy & Smith, 2003; Kossek, 2003; Marks & MacDermid, 1996), Green HRM so far ignores employees’ non-work roles (Muster & Schrader, 2011).

*Refer to Annexure I

In order to strengthen green organizational behaviour, it is important to acknowledge that environmentally relevant attitudes and behaviour are not learned exclusively at the workplace, but also in private life. People have distinctive modes of living. They practice specific consumption patterns in their everyday life, which have different effects on the environment (Reusswig, 1994; Söderholm, 2010). Therefore employees’ private role as consumers is considered crucial for learning and practicing environmental attitudes and behavior (Muster & Schrader, 2011).

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It can be said that companies with environmental management systems are particularly dependent on elaborated Green HR policies (Antoni & Bauer, 2005; Daily & Huang, 2001; Wee & Quazi, 2005). They are not immune to gaps between “rhetoric and reality” (Crane, 1995). If they have high expectations concerning their environmental performance, it is especially important for them to transform aspirations and good intentions into actual everyday behaviour. Daily and Huang (2001) have emphasized decisive human resource factors according to the key categories of the ISO 14001 guideline. They argue that top management support, environmental trainings, team work, employee empowerment and reward systems are crucial for implementing successful environmental management systems. Even though these activities can be perceived as highly relevant, the range of possible green human resource interventions is much wider (Renwick, 2008).

Green HRM – Rhetoric or Reality?

Rhetoric about Green HRM mainly lies in the mismatch between the way organizations project themselves in term of environmental responsible behaviour expected out of their employees and the actual behavior brought in by them in workplace and their day to day life. Despite the fact that all organizations would aim to draw in rich dividends; directly or indirectly, out of their responsible behavior towards environment by bringing in appropriate policy document with respect to key human resource process starting from entry to exit of employees in the organisation, very few are actually able to transform the actual behavior of employees. More so very few organizations are able to assess overall effectiveness of green initiatives taken up by them over a period of time. How far these initiatives have contributed to image and reputation of the organisation? Many a times, it remains as an intangible thing without directly contributing to the value proposition of the organisation.

None the less organizations have been taking pioneering initiatives in to seek to desired behavior. Some of the initiative include; reducing carbon footprint via less printing of paper and substituting emission-enhancing actions (example: air travel) by adopting technology applications constructively (video conferencing, conference calls for meetings, interviews etc).Some of the organizations have started with a payroll giving programme, which allows employees to donate to environmental causes of their choice. Carpooling, working from home are some of the other measures to support organizational commitment to environmental measures.

So, what difference can HR bring to an organization’s sustainability policies “Prospects of reducing costs could eventually lead more businesses to adopt ‘greener’ ways of working? The benefits of going green, apart from contributing towards genuine environment health, also carries direct advantages in impacting the brand and bottom-line of an organization.

So, this certainly adds yet another feather on HR’s cap, as it takes on newer roles and in the process, proves how fruitful it can be to the growth of an organization.

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In the United Kingdom (U.K.) environmental issues have an impact on recruitment, as survey data show that high-achieving graduates judge the environmental performance and reputation of a company as a criterion for decision-making when applying for jobs (Wehrmeyer, 1996: 18-19; Oates, 1996: 127). A survey by the British Carbon Trust shows over 75% of 1,018 employees considering working for a firm see it as important that they have an active policy to reduce carbon emissions (Clarke, 2006:40), and another by the U.K. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reveals that 49% of their respondents take environmental credentials into account when deciding whether to take a job or not, with firms like Boots viewing the ‘Green job candidate’ as influencing thinking in this area (Brockett, 2006: 18).

Indeed, the CIPD believe that becoming a green employer may improve employer branding and be a useful way to attract potential employees (CIPD, 2007a: 3), with their latest CIPD/KPMG survey of 1,000 respondents stating that 47% of HR professionals feel that employees would prefer working for firms that have a strong green approach, and 46% stating that having one would help attract potential recruits (Phillips, 2007: 9). Overall, the CIPD feel that being a Green employer may:

‘Help to increase motivation and engagement (through a shared set of values), reduce labour turnover (because the organization is one in which people want to work), and improve the health of the workforce (for example, by encouraging cycling to work)’ (CIPD, 2007a: 3).

A key role for HR environmental executives is to guide line managers in terms of gaining full staff co-operation towards implementing environmental policies (Wehrmeyer and Parker, 1996: 163), which means HR need to ‘seek out allies, nurture supporters and create networks of problem-solvers willing to act to change the status quo’ (Hart, 1996: 187).

Many HR staff and work organisations are recognising the HR factors involved in environmental management (Daily and Huang, 2001), and are embracing the Environment Management (EM) aspects of HRM. For example, Cable and Wireless show how they are attempting to achieve changes in EM through implementing their environment programme worldwide (including their group safety function), (Beatson and Macklin, 1996:378-379), and in Britain E.ON optimises desk space by encouraging staff to work from home (if feasible), and in changing business travel through introducing online “live meetings” (to save travel between offices), and by running a car-sharing scheme (Clarke, 2006: 42).

The HR department at the U.K. arm of Sky has overseen a campaign to turn off PCs, TVs and lights when leaving, to use 100 per cent renewable energy, and introducing solar lighting (Davies and Smith, 2007: 30), while other British organisations, HR at first direct highlight their travel policy which promotes car sharing and the increasing use of public transport (Simms, 2007: 36),

and Boots have reduced car journeys by 20 per cent via their green transport plan, and established an intranet scheme for carpooling (Davies and Smith, 2007: 30). In addition, HR systems such as e-HR are seen to be able to help management and employees track their own carbon emissions (Beechinor, 2007: 46).

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The British CIPD see an impact on the U.K. HR profession from challenges posed by environmental concerns in terms of organisations becoming energy-efficient (Phillips, 2006: 1), and whilst their survey reveals only 23 % of HR professionals seeing themselves as having ownership of environmental issues, 46% believe HR should take a facilitating role towards them, and 23% a role in assisting others on them also (Brockett, 2006: 18). Such findings support the idea that HR are well-placed to coordinate or lead on introducing Greener policies because of their experience in communications and cultural change, as many ideas in EM may come from employees, stimulated by the framework HR establish (CIPD, 2007a: 4). HR can develop an environmental report, and include a policy statement, targets, progress measures, an overall impact assessment, and a policy framework for binding together transport, flexible working, energy efficiency and recycling (CIPD, 2007a: 3-4; Davies and Smith, 2007: 29).

Overall the literature seems to be replete with cases of ‘environmental responsiveness of HRM’ but it is evidently scarce on ’employees’ responsiveness to Green HRM practices’. Is ‘Green HRM’ just a fad in the organization? The crucial point is how employees have been responding to the green agenda of organization for which they work. Are these agendas impacting their non- work roles and behavior? Do employees’ values, attitude & preferences have influence on their responses to green initiatives taken up by the organization?


The topic of environmental sustainability is generating increased concern among business executives, governments, consumers, and management scholars. As these stakeholders struggle with the challenges and opportunities presented by an array of environmental issues, HRM scholars and practitioners alike have been relatively slow to engage in the ongoing discussions and debates (Jackson, Renwick, Jabbour & Muller-Camen, 2011). There is scant literature on ’employees’ responsiveness towards Green HRM initiatives’. Until and unless the work life perspective is brought in Green HRM, the holistic assessment of employees behaviour could not possibly be made as it is important that people must bring in environmental responsible behaviour in both; work and day today life. More so the real strength of Green HRM should lie in not only making people responsible citizens of their organizations but also of their community, society and nation at large.


‘More than reality, Green HRM has remained rhetoric’. Justify your answer with suitable examples and evidences from your experiences in work organisation.

‘Employees can’t come with responsible behaviour towards environment in their work life without practicing the same in day to day personal life’. Comment

How does the people attitude and values would impact environmental responsible behaviour in their work organisation?

Discuss how and to what extent HRM policies and practices can improve the environmental performance of organizations.

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