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Not one week goes by without hearing about climate change in the media. Ever-present in our daily lives, climate change is now part of business organizations. They have a tangible environmental impact and need to be responsible by changing their business models. In the end, transformation provides new market opportunities. For instance, car manufacturers such as Toyota, are increasingly looking into a global mobility offer and recycling services. However, if this evolution seems to be natural on the outside, it is far from being benign on the inside.

This transition requires a new set of skills. Human Resources are thereby endowed with a decisive role, to translate climate issues into all occupational activities. Account departments come to mind, as they will have to take into account the double materiality, or the marketing departments who will have to align with more responsible consumption modes. Luckily, tools are already available. Including for instance the Task force on climate related financial disclosure which provides recommendations to manage the growing risk of climate events. It is up to companies to incorporate it in their management, just like they did for IT and its changes in practices.

Unlike IT however, climate gets the people's support. They want their suppliers or distributors to be responsible and committed, and they want their companies to speak out on the subject, loud and clear. Let's take for instance the Printemps écologique, a corporate union which has been putting climate at the heart of every action it takes, or Les Collectifs, a network of collaborators also pursuing the same goal.

In this manner, HR need to first identify within companies, those who will start working on it naturally, from personal conviction. The idea is to rely on “internal champions” to make the whole range of practices evolve. This is what Mozilla did (Firefox browser) to launch its own approach. Then, the second step is to allow other co-workers to take a stand on the issue: empowering them, using for example monitoring of their carbon footprint so they can act on it concretely.

HR must position itself face to challenges of climate change

The training offer needs to be multilevel: learning about the scientific facts, upgrade on the deep changes in jobs, regular update via levers of action (techniques in IT, regulation in Finance etc.) and more generally, the implementation of a program about management transformation for the purpose of business transformation.

In the end, this internal approach can become a real booster to attract external talents. Vice versa, given the commitment of young graduates on the subject, businesses which will not take a stand today shall rapidly be downgraded.

HR do have a special responsibility when addressing climate change issues. They can help create or structure the necessary alliances to transform jobs and their organizations. Their central position impels them into being the first ones to change and prepare this new climate era.

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Source: This article was written by emlyon business school for the ANDRH magazine and published in the October 2022 edition – special 75 years.

Written by: Xavier BLOT, Professor specialized in the impact of climate change on organizations and Director of the Specialized Master in Energy Transition Management and Gilles BASSET, Development Director for Custom Programs at emlyon business school