Sustainability: The new employee benefit?
Updated: May 25
What comes to mind when you think about employee benefits? Perks such as paid gym memberships, discounts on healthy food, mental health days, commuter assistance programs… and sustainability initiatives? Companies taking their role seriously in climate change are also taking their first steps in engaging one of their greatest assets (and critics) when it comes to sustainability - their employees.
We’ve been (rightly) so caught up in the planetary need for sustainability that we’ve typically missed the potential for sustainability as a tool to attract and retain some of the world’s top talent. So how do employees feel about sustainability as a workplace benefit?
Employees want to work for planet-friendly companies
Studies show that working for a planet-friendly company or organisation is incredibly important to the majority of employees! Sustainability has been on employees’ minds for a few years, but the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated ‘climate-conscious’ attitudes. In a recent study of 14,000 people in nine countries by IBM Institute for Business Value, 9 out of 10 consumers said that news coverage of the pandemic affected their views on environmental sustainability more than weather-related events.
Sustainability-minded views are now playing in the workplace. 71% of employees and people seeking employment in the same IBM survey stated that environmentally sustainable companies are more attractive employers. Moreover, over 2/3 of the potential workforce are more likely to apply and accept jobs with environmentally sustainable companies, with about half of them even going as far as being open to taking a pay cut for a job with an environmentally sustainable company!
Workplace sustainability boosts engagement and company reputation
Sustainability benefits (which we classify as sustainability engagement activities, environmentally friendly perks, learning and action portals), and a strong corporate sustainability plan isn’t just a positive for prospective employees. There’s a strong business case that can be made here too.
Just as having a competitive benefits plan helps employees feel connected to their workplace and boosts retention, a company with a clear sustainability plan reaps the same benefits. In a recent HP Workforce survey, 40% of responders said that they would look for new jobs if their current workplace did not engage in sustainable business practices and 39% said they would warn others of their companies' poor sustainability practices.
Taking on tangible sustainability goals has been shown to provide workers with a sense of community, a collective ‘we can make a difference’ attitude which in turn boosts worker engagement. People want their employer to reflect their personal values and for their workplace to be an expression of their values when it comes to climate action and sustainability.
Plus, sustainability measures mean reduced costs
Another bonus that comes with taking on climate action as a workplace is reduced costs or even profits! Cutting waste, reducing unnecessary travel, or boosting supply chain efficiency is generally linked to cost savings. Marks and Spencer famously reported that their Plan A sustainability program had a net benefit of £160 million in 2014 through 2015.
Indiana University’s School of Public & Environmental Affairs studied manufacturing companies who underwent processes to make their businesses more sustainable - unsurprisingly perhaps, they found that in most cases, sustainable changes were associated with reduced costs. One company in the study reported almost $200 million in savings thanks to the new energy-efficient initiatives they had undertaken.
Where should your company start?
Research shows that aside from sustainability benefits for the planet, companies that choose to take on sustainability or climate action initiatives generally have overwhelmingly positive results themselves, including reduced costs, happier employees, and a better reputation. So where or how should a company or an organisation begin to implement sustainability initiatives?
Start with small, tangible goals: Even a little change makes a big difference! Consumers and employees are getting smarter at telling when nebulous, unachievable goals have been set to give off a good impression rather than effect real and immediate change.
Involve your employees in the process: This is the time to have everyone on board and contributing ideas. Having your employees understand how your company works and how they can use their voice to change it for the better will lead to good ideas you might not have considered otherwise! For those companies wanting to go one step further, Capture for Teams is a great platform to get your employees involved in sustainability challenges and CO2 tracking.
Have regular and public check-ins: Have your company report and update your goals every quarter, invite comments and collaboration across your industry if you can. People like to see the changes and it can be a great benchmark to show stakeholders, employees, and prospective employees that what your company or organisation is doing really is making a difference.
Looking for a simple tool to help you mobilise a sustainable workforce? We know there’s a huge amount of work on the plates of those in sustainability - and we want to help make engaging a planet-friendly community a walk in the park. Learn more about Capture Teams and join the conversation via our LinkedIn.