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Sustainable Human Resource Management

The main objectives of this research paper is to study the historical development of managing human resources, propose claims for recognizing sustainability as the future of managing human resources, to establish the need for Green HRM, a new paradigm towards employee satisfaction and loyalty as an important priority for the efficient management of human resources evaluate how the various instruments of sustainable HRM create an impact on organizational overall performance.

Now the time has come for sustainable development. Environmental policies should be embraced to ensure that this world remains a good place to live in. Organizations may make a positive contribution in maintaining an ecosystem that would be cleaner and safer via incorporating multiple essential ecological initiatives. This simple theoretical paper deals with a step taken by organizations to encourage sustainable growth and ecological initiatives. This research suggests that human resources management departments must incorporate green and environmentally friendly practices in their organizations. Green HRM is a concept that further adds to the basic understanding of this idea.

Research Methodology:
The researcher has used reference from secondary sources like books, articles and newspaper reports to understand the issue regarding Sustainable Human Resource Management, hereinafter Sustainable HRM.

Sustainable HRM can be defined as those long-term oriented conceptual approaches and activities aimed at a socially responsible and economically appropriate recruitment and selection, development, deployment, and release of employees (Thom & Zaugg, 2004)[i]. There is a constant struggle with where we are, where we need to go, what needs to be done now and what needs to be done next, so Sustainable HRM assumes that you are constantly replenishing whatever you are using, constantly keeping with the times to achieve your strategic objectives. According to Kramar (2014), Sustainable HRM refers to social and human outcomes which contribute to the continuation of the organization in the long term, that is to a sustainable organization.[ii]

Implementation of HRM policies can be enhanced with CEO support and the receipt of consistent messages by line and middle managers and employees. These messages should indicate desired employee behavior, the link between HRM and performance and the relevance of the policies. At the same time, the HR policies need to be perceived as fair and be understood, An organization must have strong corporate values and senior executive support.

It has a ?exible structure and HRM practices that build the capabilities of the workforce, provide for participative decision-making, diversity management, high levels of workplace health and safety, and performance indicators that re?ect ethical concerns. It has been argued that environmental and human/social outcomes are interrelated and contribute to organizational sustainability. The development and implementation of advanced environmental policies and capabilities are dependent on the creation of HRM policies that create trust between employees, management and the communities in which the organization operates.

In the 21st century, companies, which increasingly alter the market environment, are faced with globalization, shifts in society, technological innovations and high customer expectations. To succeed efficiently, businesses need approaches to sustain a certain degree of competitiveness within a complex and dynamic knowledge-based economy.

It is also eventually accepted that the strong emphasis on real market models in organizations to use economic, social and human resources efficiently and effectively in the immediate future will not ensure organizational sustainability in the long term. (Docherty et al., 2002, Forslin J and Shani, A. B. & Kira, M.).[iii] Sustainable HRM focuses on increasing the employees' employability; using a participatory management approach to enhance individual responsibility and ensuring an environment of work-life balance (Zaugg, Blum & Thom, 2001).[iv]

The following points support Sustainability as an HRM concept: i) organizational functioning in economic and social contexts and, because of the scare human resources, ii) aging demographics and greater concern about the sustainability issues related to jobs. HRM cannot avoid social debate about sustainability and the need to make contributions to sustainable development.

Ehnert et al. (2014) asserted that besides the short-termism of performance, active engagement in renewal, regeneration and reproduction of organizations' resources for long-term survival are also neglected. Hence, rethinking resource management including current and potential (future) human resources is essential. Incorporation of sustainability in organizations' strategy helps the realization of corporate sustainability goals (Ehnert, 2009; Kellerman, 2010; Cohen, 2010; De Prins, 2011), particularly in the presence of increasingly challenging worldwide issues such as climate change, environmental problems, world population growth, escalation of social disparity, and poverty.

Ehnert (2009a) claims that these trends highlight the need for more sustainable HRM practices and regards sustainability as having a strategic potential for HRM. In this regard, Ehnert et al. (2014b) define sustainability as a concept for providing new solutions and for making economic systems and organizations more viable over the long term and less harmful to society.

Background / Literature

Sustainability and strategic HRM are very rich literature. However sustainable HRM is a growing, rapidly emerging field.[v] The term sustainability can be used in different aspects which are concerned with meeting the needs of people today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 2005).[vi]

Sustainability and sustainable development are synonymously used for the notions (Filho, 2000).[vii] Dyllick and Hockerts (2002) noted that the term sustainability has been influenced mainly by three different stakeholder groups; ecologists, business strategy scholars, and the United Nation's World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED, 1987), called the Brundtland Commission. Some authors believe sustainability first appeared as a concept in the forestry sector, before it was adapted by the ecological movement concerned with the over-exploitation of natural and environmental resources (Leal Filho, 2000). While ecologists focus on sustainability's ecological dimension � the protection of the natural environment � the traditional goal of business strategy scholars is economic sustainability of organizations (Dyllick & Hockerts, 2002).[viii]

From a business perspective, sustainability has been defined as a company's ability to achieve its business goals and increase long-term shareholder value by integrating economic, environmental and social opportunities into its business strategies (Symposium on Sustainability, 2001, Wirtenberg et al 2007).[ix]

Evidence is accumulating rapidly that corporate social-environmental performance maybe strongly associated with financial and marketplace success (Cusack, 2005; Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, 2006; Wirtenberg et al 2007), and that the investment community and corporate people appear to be focused increasingly on the degree to which firms are managed with the compliance of sustainability (Dixon, 2003).[x]

The three-fold approach to sustainability focuses both on an organization's external influences and on its internal influences. It also addresses the sustainability of short-term and long-term effects on a variety of the organization's shareholders. In other words, sustainable HRM is economically rationale for companies to invest in the survival of their sources for resources if the functioning of these is endangered (Ehnert 2006).[xi]
Sustainable HRM is interpreted as a cross-functional task (Ehnert 2006)[xii].

Sustainable HRM is long-term oriented conceptual approaches and activities aimed at a socially responsible and economically appropriate recruitment and selection, development, deployment, and release of employees. (Zaugg & Thom, 2004: 217).[xiii] Sustainable HRM could help sustain employee dignity in the case of staff reduction and warranting their employment on the job market (Zaugg & Thom, 2001).[xiv] Thom & Zaugg (2004) stated that, a sustainable HR policy focuses on implementing proper, transparent procedures for recruitment and retention, training and development, performance management and motivation and employee engagement and it is a conceptual approach and long-term oriented activity in developing socially viable and responsible policies for recruitment and retention, employee engagement, deployment, and motivation.[xv]

Wirtenberg et al (2007) mentioned that, implementing sustainable human resource policies help in creating a more productive and motivated workforce which eventually led to organizational success.[xvi] Ehnert (2009) mentioned that, sustainable HR model is that it anticipates on the short term and long-term effects of implementing a policy and measures organizational success in social and environmental dimensions and not just by the financial aspect. It also utilizes the power of human resource management to develop and empower employees by building a conducive work environment.[xvii]

Several studies have shown the connection between sustainability and the management of human resources; and a new approach was established as sustainable management of human resources.
  1. Ehnert, 2006:
    Sustainability issues and human resource management - The Sustainability perspective of HRM raises awareness for ambiguities and dualities in HRM, unintended negative side effects of HR practices, social rationalities. [xviii]
  2. Ehnert, 2009:
    Sustainability and Human resource management - Sustainable HRM is about to change a traditional way of managing human resources for long-term viability and sustain development. This approach covers treating HR socially responsible and to foster well-being and health in dimensions of social justice and social legitimacy. [xix]
  3. Kramer, 2014:
    Strategic HRM and sustainable HRM - Applications of sustainability concepts in human resource management emerged a new approach- Sustainable HRM has different features from Strategic HRM. It acknowledges social or human outcomes rather than financial outcomes.[xx]

Chapter I: Historical evolution of human resource management

Human resource management is a field of constant evolution and transition. As well, there is no standard model or an ideal type of HRM approaches, to suit all organizations, and thus, there are different models to describe HRM evolution and management (Ahmed and Kazmi, 1999; Gratton and Truss, 2003).[xxi]

The concept and processes of strategic human resource management (SHRM) developed in the late The 1970s and the 1980s as a way of managing employees in an increasingly turbulent and fast-changing, uncertain environment. One of the most prominent factors in history for the management of human resources was primarily scientific research (1903) by Frederic W. Taylor, who proposed three principles that were the basis of modern HRM according to Jamrog and Overholt (2004):
  1. The Human Resource appointed for the job must be physically, mentally fit for the job and those who aren't fit must be removed.
  2. The Human resource must have trained to carry out the given specific task.
  3. The Human Resources must be given incentives or rewards.[xxii]

Between 1950 and 1960, was the deployment of the automobile industry, promoting concern for ef?ciency and performance, and parallel to it, the implementation of the sub systems of HR, known as the Technicist phase by Wood (1995).[xxiii] During this period, despite the knowledge and understanding of how people behave in organizations, the personnel management function was still regarded as a records unit with operational character (Jamrog and Overholt, 2004).[xxiv]

The transition from personnel management to human resources management had begun mainly with the concepts divulged by North American authors between the 1960 and 1970 and since then, the term ��HRM'' has been increasingly adopted worldwide (Ahmed and Kazmi, 1999).[xxv]

The 1980s also saw the evolution of HRM to the strategic management of human resources. From the moment they began to identify the link with organizational effectiveness was justi?ed for its approval and its role within organizations (Ewing and Caruana, 1999), no longer being seen only to answer legal questions.[xxvi]

HRM encompasses Strategic HRM, which is a more speci?c approach to managing people to improve organizational performance and measures the impact of these strategies on organizational performance. The concept of Strategic HRM evolved in several ways. Strategic HRM can be expressed in terms of planned human resource activities and deployments designed to achieve an organization's objectives Strategic HRM integrated the HRM activities with organizational strategic objectives in an organizational context.

These include the development of theoretical frameworks, views about the speci?c contributions to organizational performance and the speci?c �bundles' of HR practices which include high-performance work systems (HPWS) which consist of selective recruitment and selections, extensive employee development and participation in decision-making. It also assumes that effective HRM activities improve organizational performance. (Schuler and Jackson 2005; Boxall and Purcell 2008).[xxvii]

There is a need for more discussion on what sustainable HRM is, what is the role of HRM in implementing the idea of sustainability in the organizations and what is the role of HRM in developing sustainable HRM? As consequences of actions, there is a need for empirical research on how organizations and employees perceive sustainable HRM, and, how sustainable HRM implemented.

Chapter II: Sustainable development: The role of green HRM
The time of Sustainable HRM has come. Governments should seriously consider working out mechanisms with the private sector to draft out plans favoring and protecting the environment. Organizations under the name of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) claim to pay-back to the environment, but they need to go beyond normal activities and adopt more practices in routine for the better implementation of their green initiatives, and these green initiatives can be a part of the broader CSR as well (Mandip, 2012).[xxviii]

Ahmad (2015) highlights the introduction of areas such as Green Accounting, Green Marketing, Green Retailing and others. Multinationals such as Toshiba, LG, and Sony are among the few brands that are on this mission. Toshiba Environment report defines Green Management as, Green Management is an initiative aiming at continuously improving the foundation of environmental management, such as the development of personnel responsible for environmental activities, environmental management systems, and environmental communication as well as conservation of biodiversity. [xxix]

The green management system is a dynamic and constant administration arrangement of exercises and procedures to screen, avoid and control pollutants of nature (Abbaspour, et al., 2006)[xxx]
According to Denisi and Griffin (2009), HRM is the comprehensive set of managerial activities and tasks concerned with developing and maintaining a qualified workforce in ways that contribute to organizational effectiveness. HRM is a well-known and understood concept; therefore, the authors do not focus more on establishing the importance or basic understanding of this term. GHRM is relatively a new idea and is gaining limelight with the acknowledgment of the importance of environmental concerns and role organizations can play.[xxxi]

Green HRM is not a stand-alone concept. Sharma and Gupta (2015) are also of the view that Green HRM is a holistic and wider application of the notion of sustainability to an organization and its personnel[xxxii]. Green actions can be inculcated into various steps or processes in an organization. Green HRM involves the use of HRM to support sustainable use of resources in organizations (Rani and Mishra, 2014).

Some organizations, such as those mentioned in the introductory part of this paper, present themselves as Green, they are working on building their image as Green organizations to capitalize on this goodwill image. The GHRM framework is not complex and may not require a fundamental shift in the structure of HRM functions but at the same time have a positive impact in the long run.[xxxiii] GHRM can be more fruitful if it is adopted by the organizations as part of the broader sustainable development.

Ahmad (2015) reiterates that Green HR efforts have resulted in increased efficiencies, cost reduction, employee retention, and improved productivity, besides other tangible benefits. Organizations need to become proactive and go for practices that can help them grow and at the same time enable organizations for paying back to society. It is imperative to mention that literature about GHRM and its implementation is mostly available in the context of developed economies and not in developing countries.

It is high time that developing countries should acknowledge the importance of a greener sustainable environment and counter the growing global warming issues. GHRM can be one small but effective strategy as a part of the broader mission.[xxxiv] The Green HRM model can be assessed and evaluated using a method developed by Tang et al. (2017) to support the research. [xxxv]

Conclusion, Limitations, Implications:
Sustainable HRM is an extremely new subject for HR and empirical studies to evaluate and demonstrate best practices for more sustainable HRM-based organizations. Sustainability is a strategic issue for HRM that is necessary for a company's long-term access to resources needed for business in the future including human resources and long-term viability to maintain the social legitimacy of their commercial operations for which they need to control the risks from producing negative externalities on natural and social environments (Ehnert et al., 2014c).[xxxvi]

This ultimately leads to the long-term sustainability and capability of organizations as well as resilience and sensitivity to external environmental change within those organizations that positively influence their efficiency and effectiveness. The paper has a limitation is that no specific organizational sustainable HRM analysis has been made. Future research could be made on some specific organizational aspects

To summarize the findings, some key characteristics of a sustainability perspective in HRM derived in this study and the related theoretical literature are listed in the following: Having a long-term approach and foresight, Creating organizational dynamics, Emphasizing on creating equal and non-discriminatory learning opportunities, regeneration and development of HRs, the implementation of appropriate policies to create work-life balance including flexible or floating working hours and distance working.

Targeted, a diverse, flexible, and motivational reward system that is consistent with sustainability goals, Caring for the interests of different groups of stakeholders, Caring for the health and safety of HRs, Efforts to gain and maintain social legitimacy through long-term investment appreciation and responsibility towards society and other stakeholders, make use of the restrictions and turn them into opportunities through creativity and innovation, Gaining sustainable competitive advantage, Creating corporate sustainability.

In sum, Sustainable HRM can be viewed as facets of modern integral management model, in continual dynamic interaction that brings about a potential for improved competitive advantage and business performance and as the opportunity for HR to prove its own legitimacy and strategic position.

  1. Thom, N. & Zaugg, R. J. (2004). Nachhaltiges und innovatives Personalmanagement: Spitzengruppenbefragung in europ�ischen Unternehmungen und Institutionen, in E. J. Schwarz: Nachhaltiges Innovations management (pp. 217-245). Wiesbaden: Gabler.
  2. According to Kramar (2014), sustainable HRM refers to social and human outcomes which contribute to the continuation of the organization in the long term, that is to a sustainable organization.
  3. Docherty, P., Forslin, J., Shani, A. B. & Kira, M. (2002). Emerging Work Systems: from Intensive to Sustainable. In P. Docherty, J. Forslin & A.B. Shani (Eds.), Creating sustainable work systems. Emerging perspectives and practice (pp. 3-14). London: Routledge
  4. Thom, N. & Zaugg, R. J. (2004). Nachhaltiges und innovatives Personalmanagement: Spitzengruppenbefragung in europ�ischen Unternehmungen und Institutionen, in E. J. Schwarz: Nachhaltiges Innovations management (pp. 217-245). Wiesbaden: Gabler.
  5. Mr. Ravi Kumar, Sustainable HRM: An Evolution of a New Approach, International Journal of Management, Technology And Engineering, 8, XI, NOVEMBER 2018, 167.
  6. World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 2005
  7. Fillo (2000), Sustainable HRM and Sustainability.
  8. Dyllick, T. and Hockerts, K 2002, �Beyond the Business Case for Corporate Sustainability?, Business Strategy and the Environment, 11(2), 130-141.
  9. Symposium on Sustainability � Profiles in Leadership (October 2001). New York City, Wirtenberg et al 2007.
  10. Dixon, F 2003, �Total Corporate Responsibility: Achieving Sustainability and Real Prosperity?, Ethical Corporation Magazine (December)
  11. Ehnert, I 2006, �Sustainability Issues in Human in Human Resource Management: Linkages, theoretical approaches, and outlines for an emerging field?. Paper prepared for 21st EIASM. SHRM Workshop, Aston, Birmingham, March 28th - 29th, 2006
  12. Ibid 9
  13. Supra 2, 217
  14. Supra 2, 218
  15. Supra 2, 218
  16. Supra 7
  17. Ehnert, I. (2009), Sustainable Human Resource Management: A Conceptual and Exploratory Analysis From a Paradox Perspective, Berlin: Physica-Verlag.
  18. Ehnert, I. (2006). Sustainability Issues in Human in Human Resource Management: Linkages, theoretical Approaches, and Outlines for an Emerging Field. Paper prepared for 21st EIASM SHRM Workshop, Aston, Birmingham, March 28th-29th, 2006.
  19. Ehnert, I. (2009a). Sustainability and Human Resource Management: Reasoning and Applications on Corporate Websites. European Journal of International Management, 3(4), 419-438.
  20. Kramar, R. (2014). Beyond strategic human resource management: Is sustainable human resource management the next approach? International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25, 1069-1089.
  21. Ahmed, F. and Kazmi, A. (1999), ��Historical evolution of strategic human resource management'', Malaysian Management Review, Vol. 34 No. 1.
  22. Jamrog, J. and Overholt, M.H. (2004), ��Building a strategic HR function: continuing the evolution'', Human Resource Planning, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 51-63
  23. Wood, T. Jr (1995), ��Organizational change and transformation of the human resources function'', in Wood, T. Jr (Ed.), Organizational Change: Deepening Current Topics in Business Administration, Atlas/Coopers & Lybrand, Sa �o Paulo, pp. 221-42.
  24. Supra 20
  25. Supra 19
  26. Ewing, M.T. and Caruana, A. (1999), ��An internal marketing approach to public sector management: the marketing and human resources interface'', International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 17-26.
  27. Schuler, R.S., and Jackson, S.E. (2005), �A Quarter-Century Review of Human Resource
  28. Mandip G. Green HRM: People management commitment to environmental sustainability. Research Journal of Recent Sciences. 2012; 1:244-252.
  29. Supra 19
  30. Abbaspour M, Karbassi AR, Khadivi S. Implementation of green management concepts in sport complexes. International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. 2006; 3(3):213-219.
  31. Denisi Angelo S, Ricky Griffin W. HRM: An Introduction. Houghton Mifflin College/Cengage Learning India, 2009.
  32. Sharma R, Gupta N. Green HRM: An Innovative Approach to Environmental Sustainability. Twelfth AIMS International Conference on Management. 2015, 825-830
  33. Rani S, Mishra K. Green HRM: Practices and Strategic Implementation in the Organizations. International Journal on Recent and Innovation Trends in Computing and Communication. 2014; 2(11):3633-3639.
  34. Supra 19
  35. Tang G, Chen Y, Jiang Y, Paill� P, Jia J. Green human resource management practices: scale development and validity. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources. 2018; 56(1):31-55
  36. Ehnert, I. (2014). Paradox as a lens for theorizing sustainable HRM. In I. Ehnert, W. Harry, & K. J. Zink (Eds.), Sustainability and Human Resource Management (pp. 247-271). Berlin: Springer.

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