Why Job Seekers Prefer Sustainable Companies

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Sustainability and climate change have become key topics in day-to-day life. As they become ever more pressing issues, it's not surprising we're seeing these agendas filter into the professional lives of employees.

Article 5 Minutes

An increasing number of people are becoming aware of the effects of climate change and how it’s impacting the planet. Global Climate Strikes, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, shows just how passionate people are becoming about the climate crisis. The historical strikes led to the organization of over 2,500 events scheduled in over 163 countries.

This passion for the environment is also extending to job seekers as they’re gravitating towards businesses that are more environmentally friendly. According to Fast Company, almost 40% of millennials have chosen a job because the company is sustainable. With millennials set to make up three-quarters of the workforce in six years, this is becoming increasingly important.

Employee pride

Most people care about how they’re perceived and take pride in the things and people they’re associated with. Job seekers are not exception as who they work for matters to them, too. To prove this point, 69% of job seekers told Glassdoor that, even if they were unemployed, they would not accept a job at a company with a poor reputation. A whopping 84% claimed they would consider leaving their current positions if offered a role at a company with a better reputation.

Just one way to elicit employee pride includes implementing sustainable practices in your company’s day-to-day, which could be a reason job seekers prefer such companies. Sustainability is also a way to get your company on the road to certified B Corp status, which is when a business meets the highest standards of social and environmental performance, thus mastering the balancing act of profit and purpose. For job seekers, working at such an organization can give them a sense of pride and satisfaction.

One of the most sustainable companies of 2019 is Finland’s Neste Corporation. They were ranked number 3 on the Global 100, compiled by a Canadian sustainability-focused financial information company. Neste, a petroleum refinery, has shifted more than 50% of its investments into the development of sustainable products such as biofuels. In fact, biofuel refining alone accounts for 25% of the company’s revenue.

Shared values

Another reason job seekers may prefer sustainable companies is because they align with their core values. Specifically, another Glassdoor survey found more than 70% of job seekers wouldn’t apply to a company unless it aligns with their values. If social responsibility is one of those values, then it makes sense that job seekers would be drawn to a sustainable company.

When employers hire employees who have values that align with theirs, it’s beneficial to the company, too. Research carried out by James Collins and Jerry Porras, authors of Built to Last, looked at 18 companies that have been at the top of their market for the past 50 years. What they found is that they all placed value on hiring employees based on cultural principles and beliefs. This suggests that shared values could go a long way in helping one grow a successful business that stays at the top for some time.

Treating employees right

Job seekers may also prefer sustainable companies because they’re more likely to value their employees in turn. When a business is sustainable, it should also be practicing social sustainability. This entails managing the impact the business has on people, employees included. It can be assumed that a company that doesn’t care about sustainability won’t value their workers either.

A company doesn’t want to be seen as not valuing employers. Projecting a lack of value could be bad for your reputation and scare star prospects away. Especially when now, more than ever, employers are in a race to secure the best talent for their company. Show your prospects that you’re socially sustainable by ensuring they have a positive candidate experience from start to finish. Build your messaging, sustainability and otherwise, into your recruiting process to reinforce your values. Ultimately, while investing in sustainable energy sources still isn’t producing consistent positive returns for venture capitalists, it is key for future business and environmental practices.

How to become more sustainable

Sustainability can be an overwhelming concept and can feel financially exorbitant, too. Fortune 500 companies are estimated to spend more than $20 billion on corporate social responsibility alone, which may be out of reach for small and medium-sized businesses. However, even if you aren't able to fully transition into a green and sustainable company overnight, start by making small changes towards sustainability.

For instance, you could conduct an energy-efficiency assessment to see how you’re consuming energy and identify opportunities to reduce what you’re using. The results could lead to you making small changes like switching to LED lightbulbs or purchasing ENERGYSTAR-rated office appliances.

The reality is that to be a sustainable business, you need to implement new practices and get your employees on board. For example, if you want to recycle more at your company, you could buy garbage recycling bins and place them around the office. Educating employees is particularly key, especially as not everyone may know that shredded paper can’t be recycled traditionally and a professional shredding service is required to properly dispose of it.

If you own your business’s venue, you might also choose to make it more sustainable by planting a garden or composting the food waste produced by your employees. Another option includes investing in indoor plants, as they eliminate harmful toxins and purify the air. It’s good for your employees, too, as research shows they improve concentration and productivity by up to 15%.

Corporate sustainability is by no means perfect, and it likely never will be. But there are plenty of organizations around the globe working to improve their green reputations. By doing so, they are attracting more discerning talent, especially among the growing numbers of younger workers who are bringing their strong social convictions to their job seeking. This quid pro quo relationship will only help to grow the sustainability of corporations, bringing the value full circle.

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Indiana Lee

Indiana Lee is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, social justice, politics, and more. You can follow her work on Contently, or reach her at [email protected]

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