Quarter of young people don’t want to work for firms with unsustainable practices

young peopleAlmost a quarter (24 percent) of Gen Z employees (18 to 24-year-olds) would not work at a business that profits from unsustainable practices, according to a a new poll from PLAY. Among British employees more broadly, two-thirds surveyed (68 percent) felt it was important for the company they work for to be committed to acting sustainably, and nearly half (44 percent) want businesses to demonstrate the initiatives or goals that will make the entire business more sustainable (not just one part of the business). However, pay remains the most attractive job feature for most surveyed, inlcuding young people.

The data also suggests sustainable behaviour could help employers with talent attraction and retention, with more than half of employees (54 percent) saying they would be more likely to work for a company that provides resources and tools for them to become more sustainable.

This was as high as 62 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds, 67 percent of employees working for SMEs (with 250 to 500 employees), and 84 percent of people working in IT and telecommunications industries. Despite this clear demand for support in sustainable habit change, only 38 percent of employees said that their employer currently provides tools and resources for them to build more sustainable habits.

The results are part of a report by PLAY, titled, Corporate climate crisis: why businesses need to support employees in making sustainable behavioural changes (registration) based on a survey of 1,000 UK-based employees, split between 750 general employees and 250 business leaders/Chief Sustainability Officers, about their views on sustainability initiatives in business.

When asked what factors would make them more likely to take a new job, employees still value a good salary (65 percent) the most, followed by a good benefits package (50 percent), and a convenient office location (49 percent). However, their company having a clear social/ethical purpose was a key factor too (28 percent). It also ranked higher than factors such as remote or hybrid working being available (26 percent).

Less than half (43 percent) of people feel that their company’s sustainability actions make a difference, while 18 percent said they don’t, and 35 percent said they don’t know if their company does anything to act sustainably. This grey area was highest among the youngest employees too, with 40 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds saying they don’t know what their company is doing to be sustainable.

When it comes to initiatives in place and how companies help their employees act sustainably, the most common actions companies take are voluntary initiatives to encourage sustainability (43 percent), volunteering days on top of annual leave (37 percent), and compulsory rules and policies that ensure sustainable practices (such as paperless offices, no single use materials in the office) (36 percent). However, this suggests most companies are implementing voluntary projects, which could be why many people may not be aware of them or engaging with them, and that companies aren’t offering a joined up and collective employee/ employer sustainability ‘covenant’.

Employers do clearly recognise the need to improve on this, with 82 percent of business leaders saying they agree that their organisation should support employees to make sustainable decisions and display sustainable behaviours, and 36 percent thinking staff should be rewarded for acting sustainably.

Image by Mircea Ploscar