By John Moore, managing director, Hays NI
Climate change and the environment will be very much at the top of the news agenda this month as senior politicians and policymakers from around the world converge on the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
While I will not profess to have any particular scientific expertise on climate change, it’s clear that the impacts of global warming on our planet affect all of us and will be one of the defining issues of the next decade.
It’s no surprise then that sustainability and the environment have become important considerations for all types of organisation, their customers and their employees.
Over the past few years, businesses have learned that attracting and retaining customers and employees goes hand-in-hand with reporting on and showing a commitment to making a positive impact on sustainability and society – otherwise known as environmental, social and governance (ESG).
It’s something we’re doing ourselves at Hays by, for example, pledging to eliminate single use plastics across all 96 offices in the UK and Ireland by the end of next year, switching to 100% renewable energy and starting to move our car fleet to electric vehicles.
As we’ve noted in previous columns about issues like diversity and wellbeing, people care what organisations stand for more than ever before and will scrutinise whether they are backing up what they say with action. A 2020 IBM study found that 71% of consumers indicated that traceability of products is very important to them, and that they are willing to pay a premium for brands that provide it.
This shift in consumer behaviour has driven the creation of a whole new subsection of the recruitment market for new roles that didn’t exist just a few years ago. It would have been rare outside of a large multinational to have a head of sustainability, let alone a chief sustainability officer, yet these positions are now increasingly commonplace.
We’re seeing large employers spending a lot of their learning and development budgets on upskilling staff for new sustainability-focused roles, as well as increasing link ups with universities to identify talent for those positions early.
Globally, Hays is a significant recruiter of skilled workers into these low carbon, social infrastructure and ESG roles, and we are actively looking to grow our ESG-related talent pools so we can help to solve skill and talent shortages globally.
Outside of roles focused on sustainability, it’s clear that an employer’s record when it comes to ESG also matters for a lot of candidates in professions where their skills afford them a choice of who to work for.
A recent survey by software company Unily, which surveyed 2,000 UK office workers, found 72% of people were concerned about environmental ethics, but 83% said their workplaces weren’t doing enough to address climate change. Like many other research reports, it concluded that there is still a massive gap between rhetoric and action.
Interestingly, the survey noted that while organisational change traditionally happens from the top down, the demand for change on climate is being driven from within. Workers don’t just care about climate change on a personal level they want to feel their employers do too. Almost two thirds of people in that survey said they were more likely to work for a company with strong environmental policies and this was particularly true among millennials.
So, we have consumers driving change in sustainable sourcing, production and delivery of products, employees forcing the transformation of workplace culture from within and the resulting societal shift driving the rise of a whole new section of the jobs market for ESG roles that often extend as high as board level.
ESG has to be integrated into the culture and operating processes of businesses on a daily level. Aspirational statements of intent or nice reports not backed up by action no longer cut it in a world where people are seeking authenticity. Employers who don’t grasp this and move to address their shortcomings stand to lose out on talent in the years ahead.