Going green in the war for talent

Going green can be a powerful recruitment and retention tool. 

While some analysts are saying that green initiatives are simply ‘nice extras’ that don’t affect employment decisions or employee satisfaction, a recent UK survey found that 80 per cent of respondents across 15 developed nations would prefer to work for a company that “has a good reputation for environmental responsibility”.

Surprisingly, more respondents were concerned about working for an environmentally responsible company than they were about purchasing from one.  Why?  Increasingly, employees feel a weight of responsibility for their employer’s environmental actions.

Commercial and residential buildings in Australia contribute 23 per cent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and the Australian Greenhouse Office estimates that emissions from Australian buildings will increase by 94 per cent in the period 1990-2010.  These are seriously alarming statistics, and Australian workers are waking up to the fact that our work practices and office space need to be green.

Young people, in particular, are concerned about ‘climate crisis’ and want to work for eco-friendly companies – a survey of college students and graduates published in August revealed that 79 per cent of Generation Ys are more likely to accept a job offer from a company with a green focus.

So, how can you demonstrate to potential candidates that your company is committed to environmental sustainability?

  • Walk your talk: get serious about greening your operations and encouraging more eco-friendly behaviours in the office.  At RossJuliaRoss, we’ve developed a ‘Green Action Plan’ that outlines simple measures such as car pooling, reducing waste, recycling and turning off our computers at the end of each day.  We’ve committed our organisation to environmental stewardship and encourage staff to contribute their green ideas.  This environmental strategy has demonstrated the company’s green leadership and has been embraced by staff.
  • Say yes to smart travel: consider introducing teleworking options for employees keen to reduce their commute and corresponding CO² emissions.  It’s doesn’t just make environmental sense, but economic sense too; companies can save 17 per cent on salary costs simply by encouraging their employees to telework at least part of the week.  Other smart travel ideas include incentives for staff to purchase fuel-efficient or hybrid vehicles, take public transport or participate in car-pooling.
  • Support green philanthropy: consider matching employees’ donations to green charities, or giving employees time off to volunteer for environmental causes. 
  • Green your office space: the Green Building Council of Australia says that two-thirds of business managers believe that renting or owning a green building has helped them to attract and retain employees.  Green buildings not only reduce energy and water consumption, but increase worker productivity by more than 10 per cent.

But a word of warning: people are suspicious of ‘greenwashing’.  Employment agency Adecco has found, for instance, that 68 per cent of American adults think that most companies say they are more environmentally friendly than they actually are.  This sentiment does not change widely by age, gender or geography, with all major demographics closely agreeing that greenwashing is a reality in today’s workplace.

So, think carefully about which policies can accurately demonstrate your company’s green credentials.  Eco-friendly employment may be a key differentiator in the war for talent – and companies should actively market their green policies, activities and credentials to not only potential candidates, but their existing employees too.


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