Saving the World 9 to 5: Sustainable Companies and Talent


I’ve noticed a rising trend among the many talented professionals I have the privilege of working with- they want to work for sustainable companies. No ifs, ands, or buts. They’re willing to leave their large corporate roles or decline large offers from companies that aren’t in alignment with their highly driven global responsibility and green values. For an increasing number of talented millennials, many Gen X’ers who have gone through the corporate mill, and emerging Generation Z, sustainability represents a core value. I’m witnessing a growing demand among digital and technology professionals that the companies they work for, start and establish must align with their personal values.  Talented candidates refuse offers from companies that don’t fit the sustainable model. The effect impacts the push marketing model as well as corporate policies. Companies need to adapt if they want to remain relevant to not only customers, but also attractive to top talent.

Sustainability as a core value

Sustainability is not just about being hip. It’s a growing agenda, partially driven by millennials entering the workforce, as well as the impact of transformative leaders implementing altruistic and green initiatives (enter Elon Musk, Bill Gates etc). There’s a generational transition happening. Millennials and the emerging Generation Z, in far greater numbers than boomers or GenX, view sustainability as a core non-negotiable value. They also believe their work life needs to align with these personal values, which is a huge shift from previous generations that believed personal and work life were separate entities. After all, work is where most people spend the majority of their time. Work forms a huge part of their identity. And the numbers support my hunch and my direct experience.

A recent study by Bain found that 15% of employees in the US, UK and Germany were willing to earn less to work for sustainable companies, and that more than 30 percent were willing to accept a pay cut of 5% to join a company that’s considered a global leader in sustainability. More than a third of the people surveyed have excluded specific industries for employment because the companies didn’t match their personal sustainability beliefs. Those are significant statistics that impact talent pools and influence corporate policies.

Faith Popcorn’s research reveals a growing interest in sustainability

What it all means- There’s a deepening sense of purpose for many people. Just as their is the rise of the conscious customer, there is the rise of the conscious employee. These cultural trends represent a paradigm shift. According to Futurist Faith Popcorn, her research and observations reveal three trends:

  1. Increasing desire for transparency, and clean, safe products
  2. Craving brands that offer an optimistic view of the future and a path to get there
  3. Talent is seeking out more intimate relationships with brands

These trends are evident in job seekers who don’t want to work for companies that are doing more harm than good (to be really simple about it). Or to apply my favourite film analogy, they reject Darth Vader. Talent considers the environmental and social impact a potential employer has on the world as much as they review the benefits package when considering an offer, and that’s a gigantic leap in the mainstream mind-set from even five years ago.

Millennials want to save the world 9 to 5

Millennials are results driven This generation seeks to create viable solutions to vastly complicated problems. They work to create breakthrough ideas, products and technology. For them- innovation means leaving the world a better place. No longer does this objective appear to be an idealistic fantasy. More and more job seekers are looking for companies where they can “save the world 9 to 5.” Such technology and media companies include Apple, Google, Facebook, Vivendi, Adobe Systems, Motorola and many more- some of the most successful companies of our day. Companies not engaged in sustainability programs appear out-of-touch. It’s refreshing to see all these global protectors doing the right thing. A modern day ‘Force’. Sustainable companies have gone mainstream.

We are at a crossroads. Not only do consumers influence brands through peer-to-peer networks, but talent also impacts them. Global brands adopting, even if slowly, to sustainable practices and agendas get preference. It’s easy to forget that a company becomes the summation of the minds running it. For the emerging Millennials and Generation Z, sustainability represents not a marginalized idea, but a mainstream cornerstone value. This shift will continue as more millennials take on leadership and c-level roles in companies where their personal values will inevitably impact company policies and agendas.

For FORWARD thinking companies and talent- it’s good news all around.

Caroline Stokes is founder of FORWARD Human Capital Solutions.  FORWARD does things differently for people in digital organisations who demand inspiring talent solutions for transformative results.

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