Greater China Talent Management Summit 2016, organized by, now its 11th year, is widely appreciated by human resources professionals in the Greater China as an effective platform to share insights, knowledge and tools on talent management. This major event will be held at Hotel Icon in Hong Kong on 8 July this year.

Sustainability is neither a fad nor an option to business organizations, it is a global imperative issue that every government and companies are addressing. Issues related to sustainability have moved to the forefront of business, economic and political arenas worldwide. Business leaders are realizing the fact that sustainable workplace and business practices can make their companies more competitive. Companies who manage sustainability reap long-term benefits for both themselves and for the society as they recognize that the public’s perception of sustainability has changed, consumers understand its importance and are considering sustainability in their everyday’s lives. Corporations doing well in sustainability are rewarded by customers and investors. The Summit this year focuses on the impact of sustainability to business organizations, and emphasizes the role of human resources profession who is uniquely positioned to be a catalyst in bringing about this profound change.

The Role of Business Organizations in Sustainable Development of Hong Kong
The growing social and global challenges urge the Hong Kong government to adopt sustainability measures on listed companies, it is a requisite for corporations to submit the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Reporting complement to the Financial Annual Report. The Reporting is designed with the ultimate goal for companies to commit sustainability, by balancing financial performance with contributions to the quality of life of their employees, the society at large and environmentally initiatives.

The ESG Reporting covers four subject areas: Workplace Quality, Environmental Protection, Operating Practices and Community Involvement. It discloses how companies contribute to the working environment, human capital development, protection and utilization of natural resources, corporate governance and corporate social responsibility. Performance of each of the subject area is measured in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), there are a total of 34 KPIs to achieve in the Reporting. Amongst the four subject areas of Reporting, two major areas of Workplace Quality and Community Involvement are direct human resource concern region, which accounts for 50% of the total Reporting.

Many companies carry out sustainability projects of reducing CO2 emission that leads to global warming issues, waste reduction, food security, gender equality, urban design, energy and power, and human development. Companies engage in sustainability development enhance value of the corporations, allow engagement with stakeholders and contribute to society. It also benefits businesses by driving innovation and creating competitive advantages in the market. The positive outcomes derived from sustainability initiatives are not only on new profit opportunities, but also brand reputation, improving employee morale, more efficient business processes, stronger public image, increase employee loyalty and brand recognition.

Sustainability as Key of Employee Engagement Strategy
What motivates today’s employees is changing. Employees no longer view work solely as a means to a paycheck. A study found that 96% of Generation Y are highly concerned about the environment and expect that employers will become more sustainable. Almost three quarters expect that businesses to make sustainability commitments. 92% of millennials expressed their interest of working for environmentally conscious companies. To keep the workforce happy, one of the best ways is to engage them to be part of implementing the company’s sustainability projects.

Companies who are active in implementing CSR projects has advantage in attracting and retaining talents, it gives an edge for companies to establish a distinctive and positive employment brand. Job seekers are increasing making sustainability values as a priority when looking for jobs, not only for millennials, the trend far-reaches to people of all ages seeking companies that are making a positive contribution to society.

There is a saying “If employee engagement is a top business priority and sustainability programs are a way to drive better engagement”. There is a clear imperative to make sustainability a part of the work experience. By synchronizing employee engagement with sustainability strategy foster an innovative, environmentally responsible and socially conscious business.

An inspired workforce is undoubtedly a company’s best valuable asset. Engaged employees create a supportive, stimulating, collaborative and rewarding working environment. Companies in turn enjoy greater profitability, productivity, able to attract and retain best talents, with lower turnover rate, positive public relations, gaining customer trust and loyalty.

Companies who are the sustainability leaders outperform their peers who are less sustainable. Sustainability leaders have higher, faster growing stock value, better financial results, lower risk, and more engaged workforce.

More and more companies tie their sustainability achievements to employee bonuses, aligning company values with employee’s personal interests. Sustainability KPIs are built into employee’s performance assessments. Companies develop recognition program for sustainability achievements. This type of rewards program combines employee satisfaction and sustainability strategy winning positive public relations.

The following are some questions that must be asked when engaging employees with sustainability initiatives.

  • What kinds of sustainability strategies do the company has?
  • What do the employees think of the company’s impact on the environment?
  • How educated and engaged are the employees on sustainability?
  • How does the company sustainability strategies influence on attracting and retaining talents?
  • Where does the company stand relative to the competitors?

How HR Professionals Can Become Effective Sustainability Leaders?
HR sometimes overlooks the extent of their potential impact in driving an organization’s sustainability agenda. In fact they play a major role in the corporate sustainability realm. HR related sustainability positively impacts the business, employees and stakeholders. HR adds value to align human capital strategy with business strategy, this means partnering with senior business leaders, building an excellent talent pipeline and engaging in the business. At the same time, it is employees that drive the sustainability agenda and implement sustainability plans. People drive a sustainable culture and bring about enduring change in the organization and HR revolves around people management. The HR function therefore has a critical leadership role to play.

HR leaders are uniquely positioned to take up a leadership role in sustainability in several aspects:

  • Vision & Mission – Define a philosophy, vision and mission that describe the organization’s commitment toward sustainable business practices.
  • Engagement & Communications - HR is experienced at driving cross-functional, organizational transformation initiatives with broad scope and complexity.
  • Learning & Development – Incorporate sustainability education in environmental stewardship, social outreach, natural wellness and leadership in the employee training process.
  • Culture Change - HR is the steward of organizational culture and resident change management expert.
  • Organizational Effectiveness - HR understands changing workforce demographics and their effect on organizational capacity to attract and retain top talents. They also know what sort of structures and processes work best for an organization and how to implement these changes.
  • HR Capabilities – Development of key HR capabilities to drive sustainability and create sustainable HR systems and processes.

It is under this premise that this year’s Summit intends to address the following critical challenges of sustainability issues for HR.

  • What should the role of HR in corporate sustainability entail?
  • How can HR have a greater impact in creating and driving a sustainable culture?
  • How can the HR function better equip itself to lead change in this important area?
  • What does sustainability mean to the business? How to integrate sustainability into business practices and how to link and measure the outcomes related to culture and employee engagement?
  • What kinds of sustainability programs would enable HR to attract talents?
  • How can HR align the employment brand more fully with sustainability efforts?
  • How does HR measure sustainability achievements? What could be done to contribute to workplace quality and community through CSR activities?