Sammy is the founder and CEO of YuLifethe life insurance company that provides life insurance, wellness and rewards in one simple app.
Decades of economic development on fossil fuels have cost the environment. Of the 1.2 million people in 50 countries who investigated by the United Nations Development Programme (download required), 64% recognize climate change as an emergency, and more than half of this group agreed that action to halt climate change should be an urgent priority. This is a feeling that I’ve noticed is starting to permeate global business as well.
But it’s not just companies that are taking climate change more seriously. As public discourse continues to shift in favor of climate action, job seekers and employees alike want to work for companies whose sustainability values match their own. This further stimulates demand for environmental, social and corporate governance initiatives in the workplace.
As more companies put investment and resources in ESG frameworks, the question remains: what do employees really expect from their workplace and where should companies focus their ESG energy?
Why the business ecosystem needs to adapt
More and more consumers and other stakeholders today hold companies accountable for their environmental and social responsibility. A report by Unily (registration required) found that 83% of employees feel their employer was not doing enough to be more sustainable and tackle climate change, and 65% said they would be more likely to work for a company with a robust environmental policy.
A questionnaire conducted by YouGov and my company, YuLife, of 2,093 UK adults found that 42% of respondents are more likely to choose a company with environmental initiatives than one without. Thirty-seven percent said they would avoid working for a company with “poor green credentials,” and 62% of survey respondents said they would value their company more if it invested in climate-positive efforts.
Yet nearly 20% of respondents don’t believe their company is promoting positive impact on the world – a figure that skyrockets to 75% for respondents ages 18 to 24. This raises a red flag for the business ecosystem, as talent is increasingly prone to pass up companies – and even earn lower wages—in favor of working for a company that reflects their values.
How to get started
Shrinking your carbon footprint or volunteering your time for a noble cause can be a huge undertaking, especially for those who are self-employed and have family obligations. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. You can have your green cake and eat it too by engaging in sustainably oriented activities in the workplace. Indeed, companies can combat climate change by promoting activities that benefit the environment and society.
Companies should see this more as an opportunity for growth than as a burden. At my company, I believe in creating clear and tangible incentives for people to make small behavioral changes that are good for the environment. Working with an organization that helps companies reduce their carbon footprint, my company started offering members the opportunity to spend the virtual currency they earn from wellness activities on planting trees. Since its launch in October, this has become the second most popular reward on our app.
There are steps big and small that companies can take when launching sustainability or ESG initiatives in the workplace. This can range from conducting employee awareness campaigns or asking employees how they can improve their sustainable work practices. Sharing ideas for green activities makes employees feel involved and valued in the process.
You can also try reducing your company’s use of single-use plastic and replacing those items with reusable options. You might even consider investing in office plants that absorb toxins from the air; help create a calm, happy environment; and increase productivity.
The good side of history
In the wake of the “big layoff,” job seekers tend to choose a workplace that best suits their ethics and priorities, not just salary expectations. It is critical that employers recognize this societal shift if they are to retain motivated and enthusiastic employees and be on the right side of history.
After all, employees are the lifeblood of any business, and today a mismatch in company and employee values creates more problems for companies than they may realize.
ESG strategies are essential for both hiring and retention, meaning that embracing sustainability initiatives can benefit all parties inside and outside the office.