More than ever before, job seekers are looking for employers that are committed to sustainability and combating climate change. According to Deloitte’s 2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey of over 22,000 individuals, 60% of respondents indicated that they had felt anxious about the environment in the past month, and that their concerns were impacting their career and lifestyle decisions. Furthermore, 1 in 6 respondents indicated that they had already changed jobs or industries due to climate concerns, and a quarter stated that they were planning to do so in the future. Finally, the survey found that 50% of Gen Zs and 46% of millennials are pushing their employers to drive change on environmental issues.
While experts are quick to notice this trend among the younger workforce, research actually demonstrates that employees of all ages are placing increased value on organizations that prioritize sustainability. A study by intranet company, Unify, found that 72% of UK office workers of all ages were concerned about environmental ethics and that 65% would be more likely to work for a company with strong environmental policies. From this research, we know that in order to attract and retain top talent, employers must adopt sustainable practices in all that they do.
There are a few reasons why employees and job seekers are increasingly looking for organizations that are committed to sustainability. According to Sustainable Brands, an organization that works with business leaders to drive social and environmental initiatives, the Great Resignation has indicated a shift in power dynamics in favor of the workforce. With widespread employee shortages, companies have been pushed to stand out by meeting the workforce’s demand for socially and environmentally responsible employers. So, given the workforce’s increased leverage to demand change, why is sustainability such a high priority?
The Business Leadership Today article, “How Important Sustainability Is to Employees,” explains that employees want to feel that their work matters and that they are making a difference. Furthermore, Job seekers are looking for employers that care about peoples’ wellbeing, not just profits. The article states, “Making sustainability a priority in your organization, whether it’s apparent in how you do business with customers or through the opportunities and motivation you provide to employees to do their part, demonstrates caring leadership towards your employees, your community, and the world, and it’s an investment in the future.” As the dangers of climate change become more imminent, it makes sense that individuals are turning to organizations that are committed to being part of the solution.
With the above in mind, how can employers attract and retain a talented workforce through their commitment to sustainability? Here, it is important to mention that many companies have missed the mark by simply “greenwashing” their products and policies. Greenwashing occurs when companies make false or misleading claims about their sustainability efforts without making any significant changes. Companies do this in order to attract environmentally conscious customers and employees, but this dishonest behavior is often uncovered. In order to truly improve sustainability, thus attracting and retaining quality employees, employers must prioritize transparency and involvement at all levels of an organization.
The TIME article, “For a More Sustainable Workplace, Think like a Customer-Experience Manager,” discusses the importance of employee buy-in and involvement, likening employees’ needs to that of customers searching for sustainable brands. The article states, “Workers should have a clear, easily accessible pathway to understanding now only what their company does to address climate change, but why they do it.” Employees should also be given information on how their choices and that of the organization impact the environment. Just as customers rely on labels to provide information on a product’s environmental impact, the article explains that organizations can use internal “labels” to define the environmental impact of different workplace practices and to encourage sustainable choices. Finally, the article emphasizes the importance of ensuring that employees are heard and valued for their input. One way to do this is by creating environmental employee resource groups (ERGs). The article states, “ERGs can help set a company’s climate agenda, internally communicate progress on that agenda, educate colleagues, and hold the company accountable to sustainability promises.”
Today’s workforce is conscious of the fact that organizations are in a unique position to bring about widespread change. Given this awareness as well as increased employment opportunities, individuals are empowered to choose ethical employers whose values align with their own. Organizations that wish to attract and retain the best talent must seriously consider their impact on the environment and society as a whole. In addition to appealing to today’s employees and customers, adopting socially and environmentally responsible practices is the ethical thing to do.
To learn more about attracting and retaining employees, see our article here.