Are sustainability and human capital management so very different?  

5 November 2007:

Both struggle with terminology. The evolution from personnel, through human resources to human capital (HC) management - with the implied change in philosophy - is well documented, if not always well understood.

So, too, in my new role. I'm often asked what sustainability is, why it's important, and how it's different to corporate social responsibility (CSR), and whether, like the HR debate, changing terms is just a case of the emperor's new clothes.

Building a sustainable business ('sustainability') is taking into account economic impact, and environmental and social considerations. This is different to CSR, which is characterised by ad hoc bolt-on community programmes and philanthropy, rather than the economic contribution of the business.

Benefits for business

So what is the business case for sustainability? We live in a rapidly changing world posing big risks - demographic changes, global warming and poverty, to name just a few. Depressing stuff. But happily, what's good for society is good for business too, and any company's long-term financial performance relies on sound stewardship of the social and environmental conditions for economic growth. Governments won't take care of them, so if companies don't make a positive and lasting contribution on these fronts, they won't thrive long term.

Climate change is having a profound effect: drought, floods and desertification are all affecting water supply and food production, and, in turn, economic growth. As a minimum, companies have to reduce the environmental impact of their operations through, say, reducing water and energy consumption, and influencing customers and suppliers to do likewise. Not only does this save resources (and company costs), but there are big commercial opportunities to be grasped. Sustainable, renewable technologies are developing all the time, and the developers and financiers of such technologies have a golden opportunity to prosper while benefiting society.

Source:Personnel Today

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