Green means go: how to attract and retain a generation of eco-conscious employees

Mo Zahid says businesses that prioritise environmentally-aware policies will reap a host of rewards

Credit: Mo Zahid, Head of Onto for Business, Onto

We’re in an era of elevated environmental consciousness, spearheaded by the younger generations of our population. A recent Deloitte survey found that over 40 per cent of Gen Z and Millennials are willing to switch jobs over climate concerns. With more people seeking purpose and accountability, the ‘climate quitting’ concept emerges as a powerful force shaking up the relationship between employees and businesses. 

The ‘great resignation of 2022’ sparked a trend of employees seeking purposeful jobs and demanding immediate sustainability and climate change actions from their employers. Failing to meet these expectations and address environmental concerns may lead employees to leave their jobs. 

Businesses must comprehend the dynamics of ‘climate quitting’ and establish trust with employees to navigate the changing workforce and meet environmental responsibilities. This enables them to engage and future-proof their workforce while attracting future talent.

Employee expectations in the era of climate change

Climate change has significantly influenced changing employees’ expectations. Research by KPMG reveals that one-third of UK young people reject job offers based on businesses’ sustainability stance and that weak environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials impact hiring decisions. Consequently, individuals actively seek environmentally-conscious companies, both as potential employers and businesses to support.

While Gen Zs are at the forefront of this change, a 2020 report from intranet company Unily reveals that 72 per cent of multigenerational UK office workers express concerns regarding environmental ethics. Moreover, 65 per cent indicate a greater inclination towards working for companies with robust environmental policies. Notably, climate change, human rights and social equity particularly resonate with individuals in their thirties and forties. This shifting perspective among employees has compelled companies to reevaluate their mindsets and strategies. 

Green tips to take action

Companies must align their commitments to their environmental footprint and charity initiatives with tangible actions. Merely making statements without implementing internal policy changes and actively working to reduce carbon emissions can be seen as superficial and lacking credibility or, worse, as greenwashing. 

Businesses have various options to reduce their carbon footprint and enhance their sustainability credentials. These approaches can and should involve engaging employees and encouraging their active participation and input in initiatives. Businesses can make a difference by taking simple actions like replacing energy-inefficient lights, reducing post communications, storing data offsite and implementing recycling schemes to accelerate their path to net zero.

Electrifying company car fleets 

Business operating fleets have a significant opportunity to transition to electric vehicles, which would result in substantial carbon-emission reductions. Studies have shown that electric cars have a 50 to 80 per cent smaller carbon footprint than petrol cars over their entire lifetime. Electric vehicle adoption is increasing in the UK, with charging infrastructure constantly improving to meet the growing demand. Businesses can benefit from significant tax savings for themselves and their employees, too. 

Electric cars can be traditionally leased or bought before being offered to employees. Alternatively, flexible options, including subscription services, are now available where employers are billed monthly. With subscriptions, businesses have less of a financial commitment upfront and can easily accommodate any personnel changes, whether that’s new hires, probation periods or terminations.

Electric cars are available in the form of salary sacrifice and company car schemes, depending on company needs. Employees can take advantage of tax deductions up to 40 per cent on their electric cars and employers pay lower emissions-based taxes. By implementing sustainable policies, companies can engage their employees and establish a reputation as a responsible and environmentally-aware business. 

Communicating eco-credentials

In the current business landscape, it is not just employees who scrutinise the eco-credentials of a company, but also consumers. The rise in consumer awareness has transformed the market. Businesses that dedicate time and effort to informing customers and stakeholders about their plans and commitments will improve their hiring and sales conversion rates. 

Transparency and honesty mean environmental commitments become more than lip service and will increase trust among employees and consumers. And the benefits are not just in reputation. EY highlights that the correlation between sustainability and long-term value creation is becoming clearer. The effective communication of a business’s eco-credentials plays a crucial role in driving awareness and inspiring action.

A greener future

As the world looks forward, companies must embrace the eco-conscious generation and adapt to changing employee expectations. By addressing environmental concerns, organisations can attract top talent and eco-conscious customers while contributing to the planet’s wellbeing. 

Aligning strategies with clear purpose and promoting greener practices allows businesses to secure a brighter future for their employees and the environment.

Mo Zahid is head of Onto for Business, Onto