Article: Navigating the Green Shift: The role of sustainable leadership

Employee Engagement

Navigating the Green Shift: The role of sustainable leadership

Integrating sustainable practices into business strategy requires both effective leadership and strategic human resource management (HRM) to achieve long-term success.
Navigating the Green Shift: The role of sustainable leadership

In the current business landscape, sustainability has become a strategic imperative, transcending environmental responsibility as a cornerstone of economic wisdom. Maheshwari et al. (2024) 1 have illuminated the path for businesses, revealing that integrating green practices not only fosters a positive work environment but also propels businesses towards greater efficiency and robust customer loyalty. This green transformation offers a dual advantage: reducing operational waste and costs while simultaneously bolstering the brand's market standing.

The journey towards a sustainable future demands a culture of adaptability and innovation, often called 'green adhocracy.' This culture is pivotal for businesses aiming to navigate the complexities of environmental challenges today. It encourages a mindset where risk-taking and creative solution-finding are welcomed and celebrated. This shift towards innovative sustainability practices ensures businesses remain competitive and relevant in an ever-changing marketplace.

Furthermore, building a 'green clan culture' transforms sustainability into a collective mission. This approach, centred on trust, open communication, and mutual respect, forges a deeper connection between the organisation and its members toward environmental goals. Strategic HRM practices are crucial in this endeavour, from comprehensive training focused on sustainability to developing reward systems that acknowledge and celebrate green achievements. These initiatives cultivate a sense of belonging and shared responsibility among employees, embedding sustainable practices deep within the company’s ethos.

Transitioning towards a 'green market culture' leverages the competitive spirit, aligning sustainability goals with business objectives. This alignment is achieved through green training programs, recruitment processes prioritising a sustainability mindset, and performance incentives directly linked to environmental achievements. Such a culture ensures that sustainability efforts contribute significantly to the company’s competitive advantage.

Moreover, evolving into a 'green hierarchy culture' necessitates a structured approach towards sustainability, emphasising clear roles, rigorous training, and strict adherence to environmental protocols. This systematic inclusion of sustainability into every aspect of the job function lays a solid foundation for environmental responsibility across the organisation.

The Green Competing Values Framework (CVF) serves as a beacon for businesses striving to embed sustainability into their organisational culture. This framework offers a blueprint for leaders and HR professionals to tailor their strategies, aligning with the company’s sustainability objectives. By identifying and nurturing the predominant green culture within their organisation, leaders can implement practices that resonate with their team's values, enhancing environmental performance and fostering a positive corporate reputation.

To develop a green organisation, CxOs, senior managers, and HR professionals can take actionable steps based on the green CVF model, which encompasses green clan, green adhocracy, green market, and green hierarchy cultures. Each culture supports specific HRM practices that bolster environmental sustainability within the organisation.

For green clan culture:

  • Motivate employees to adopt green habits in the office, like recycling, reducing paper use, and conserving energy, reinforcing the clan culture’s emphasis on participation and supportiveness
  • Implement team-based sustainability challenges to foster collaboration
  • Recognise and reward green achievements to encourage commitment
  • Conduct regular forums for sharing eco-friendly ideas, enhancing a sense of belonging and mutual respect

For green adhocracy culture:

  • Establish a platform where employees can pitch their green innovation ideas, with the best ones receiving funding and resources for development, promoting a culture of growth and adaptability
  • Promote risk-taking in sustainability projects to spur innovation
  • Fund projects focused on green solutions, supporting creativity and autonomy
  • Provide workshops on environmental problem-solving to encourage the pursuit of new solutions

For green market culture:

  • Publicly share the company's environmental performance and sustainability goals, enhancing transparency and fostering a competitive edge in sustainability
  • Align company goals with sustainability metrics, integrating environmental targets into performance evaluations
  • Use green training programs to boost eco-competency, linking it to the company’s competitive edge
  • Offer incentives for eco-efficient practices to drive productivity and competitiveness

For green hierarchy culture:

  • Develop and enforce standard operating procedures for waste management, energy use, and other environmental aspects, ensuring all employees contribute to sustainability efforts consistently and efficiently
  • Incorporate sustainability into policies to ensure predictability and control
  • Offer formal training on environmental compliance and sustainability roles
  • Define clear roles and responsibilities around green initiatives to enhance efficiency and adherence to green protocols

These steps are integral to fostering a comprehensive green culture within organisations, leveraging HRM practices to promote environmental sustainability and achieve strategic business objectives.

In conclusion, the path to a sustainable business model is multifaceted, requiring a concerted effort across all levels of the organisation. From fostering a culture of innovation and community to aligning sustainability with competitive market strategies, the journey is intricate yet immensely rewarding. Leaders at the helm must steer their organisations with a clear vision, leveraging the collective strength of their teams to embrace sustainability not just as a strategic advantage but as a corporate ethos. By doing so, businesses contribute positively to the environment and ensure long-term success and resilience in the global marketplace.


  1. Maheshwari, S., Kaur, A., & Renwick, D. W. S. (2024). Green Human Resource Management and Green Culture: An Integrative Sustainable Competing Values Framework and Future Research Directions. Organization & Environment, 37(1), 32-56.


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Topics: Employee Engagement, Strategic HR, Leadership, #Work Culture

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