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Why businesses need to prove their sustainability credentials

a leader addressing her team on the importance of sustainability in an office
 
An organisation’s commitment to sustainability has become hugely important in recent years – and its significance is only going to increase in the future with the realisation of the systemic challenges we face. Corporate commitments are growing across all sectors of society, with business leaders being in a strong position to drive higher ambition. Increasingly, companies that act are benefitting from securing the best people, building resilience and attracting new partners.
 
Active leadership also affects the most valuable part of your organisation: the workforce. A clear commitment to sustainability has the potential to re-energise your employees, unleashing innovation and improving their overall well-being. With this in mind, proving your sustainability credentials is vital for businesses operating in the new world of work.

Workers want an employer dedicated to sustainability goals

In July 2022, we ran a poll on LinkedIn, where 61% of the 12,717 respondents confirmed that an organisation’s commitment to sustainability goals would be a factor in deciding whether or not to work for them. These results follow a similar poll we conducted earlier in 2022, where two thirds of the 9,625 respondents also said that they would need to consider a company’s sustainability credentials before accepting a role.
 
This should be no surprise. For many of us, recent global events have shifted our priorities. In a recent survey by Essity of workers returning to the office in the US, roughly half of respondents said they’d become “greener” as a result of the pandemic. Meanwhile, 71% of respondents felt that it is employees who are leading the charge in the workplace, rather than employers.

The dangers of failing to demonstrate your sustainability credentials

So, what happens if you fail to take sustainability seriously? There’s a chance that you’ll lose existing employees who wish to make a difference. We are seeing more organisations looking for candidates with green skills, as I discussed in a recent episode of the Hays Careers Advice Podcast. If your employee wants to act on this, there are companies out there that would be eager to bring them on board.
 
There’s also the real possibility that you’ll miss out on talent when hiring. It’s easier than ever for job seekers to research your organisation and, if those who care are unimpressed by your commitments on sustainability (or, even worse, if they can’t find any), it’ll make it harder to attract them.
 
As Andy Gomarsall, chairman of technology disposal company N2S, predicted in an interview with Hays this year: "The next generation are growing up in a green revolution…They’re going to be the ones sat down in front of your organisation and they are going to be asking you at point blank range: ‘What are your sustainability goals? What are your targets? Why should I join your company, and what are you doing to save our planet?’”

How can you convince employees you’re on the right track?

Firstly, embed sustainability properly into your business strategy. This is something discussed by Alistair Cox, Hays CEO, and Daniel Schmid, Chief Sustainability Officer at SAP, in a live event we ran recently.
 
Be open and honest. The European Council and European Parliament have agreed on a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive that “introduces more detailed reporting requirements and ensures that large companies are required to report on sustainability issues such as environmental rights, social rights, human rights and governance factors”. Even if your organisation isn’t based in this location, or aren’t large enough to meet these parameters, you should report on updates to prove that you’re taking sustainability seriously and making progress – you can find Hays’ reports here.
 
Listen to your employees and what they want. As Alistair Cox discussed in a 2021 blog, it’s a good idea to survey your workforce to unearth whether they’re pleased with your progress. This is something that Hays does through the ‘Your Voice’ initiative, empowering people and ensuring diversity in opinions and suggestions. Going back to what I’ve explored in a previous blog, getting your people involved in your strategy can bring benefits to everyone in the organisation and ensure that your credentials are valid.
 
Bridge the gap. Engage passionate employees to generate, identify and champion the best ideas and innovations, from developing small efficiencies to rethinking business models. Your employees are your best change agents. It’s important to remember that ensuring sustainability within your company’s practices will not involve a quick fix; it’s a process. However, by showing that you’re actively making changes for the better, you’ll soon discover the benefits that come from your efforts.

About this author

Fiona has over 14 years experience advising listed companies and private equity on ESG and sustainability. Topics of interest span net zero, responsible sourcing and human rights. Prior to joining Hays, Fiona worked at Elevate Global and before that Anthesis where she was responsible for growing a suite of sustainability due diligence services and working with companies across the goods and service sectors to deliver on their sustainability ambitions. She also has experience of working on behalf of NGOs on corporate social responsibility programs in Africa and Asia.

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