Get sustainable or risk missing out on top talent

Hiring managers who cannot articulate their company’s environmental credentials risk missing out on attracting high-quality candidates, writes Six Degrees Executive Graduate Talent Engagement Specialist Amelia Jory.

Every day I talk to candidates who are looking for their dream role. What’s encouraging is that the conversation rarely focuses entirely on salary. When I ask them what they’re looking for, candidates talk about the importance of a great team culture and non-financial benefits such as flexible hours and working from home – but there’s one “must have” that comes up time and time again: sustainability.

People want to work for a company that aligns with their values. This is integral to feeling satisfied with your work and being proud to represent a business. As such, hiring managers can expect candidates to ask about their sustainability credentials during job interviews. And we’re not just talking about Millennials and Generation Z – the importance of value alignment is shared across every generation, including Baby Boomers and Gens X and Y.

Fifty-five per cent of consumers prioritise sustainability when choosing brands or products. In much the same way, job candidates are “shopping around” for employers that are ethical and sustainable. An article by Sustainable Certification refers to sustainability as “the tie-breaker that helps [candidates] choose to work with your organisation”. Similarly, Environmental Leader advises that:

“People like to be associated with the positive .... They do not want to be linked to companies implicated in ecological disasters and social welfare scandals. Show your company as respectful of the environment and of its employees and it will attract the caliber of people whom you want to employ and the funds your business needs to expand.”

Demonstrating sustainability credentials

Sustainability credentials should not be buried in a little-used corner of your company website. Two organisations that promote their sustainability initiatives extremely well are:

Notably, both organisations directly link their sustainability credentials to being a “great place to work” in the knowledge that their strong performance in this area will be a key factor in attracting top talent.

Other good examples of businesses that have developed a reputation for sustainable business practices include:  

The three pillars of sustainability

Sustainability isn’t just about the environment. When candidates are trawling a potential employer’s website for evidence of sustainable business practices, they look for:

  • Environmental sustainability: A focus on reducing carbon footprint, packaging waste, water usage, and environmental impacts. This can be a difficult area to talk about in industries with a high impact on the environment such as Mining, but companies can provide benchmarking information on their ongoing efforts to minimise their level of impact.

  • Social sustainability: Does the company have a social license, or the support of the community in which it operates? Social sustainability can refer to the way the company treats its people internally (progressive schemes such as Diversity & Inclusion initiatives, attractive parental leave and policies that improve engagement and retention). It can also refer to external initiatives such as ensuring a supply chain is free from abuses including child labour or modern slavery, working with a diverse supplier base, and “giving back” to the community through fundraising and scholarships.

  • Economic sustainability: This is the most hidden type of sustainability, but an important one in terms of job security for interested candidates. Does the company undertake regular cycles of hiring and redundancies? Are employees paid sustainable incomes? Is there an obvious focus on short-term profits over long-term sustainability? Candidates will be on the lookout for evidence of proper governance and risk management.

Hiring managers and panellists conducting a job interview should be familiar enough with their company’s record in the three areas above to confidently answer candidate’s questions, backing up any claims with evidence or examples of sustainable business practices.

A word of caution: most candidates are intelligent enough to see through greenwashing, a form of spin that promotes the perception that a company engages in sustainable practices with little or no evidence to back up this claim. As a job interviewer you will ask candidates to give evidence to support their assertions – it’s important to be prepared to do the same if they have questions about sustainability. 

Tips for hiring managers

  • Think about what the interview room says about your organisation’s sustainability. Candidates who prioritise sustainability will notice details such as non-recyclable coffee cups and lights being left on in an unused room.

  • If your organisation’s sustainability credentials are underplayed or non-existent on your website, use your influence to improve their visibility. Website owners are likely to pay attention if you link this issue to a talent attraction concern.

  • Become familiar with your organisation’s track record across environmental, social and economic sustainability so you can confidently answer candidates’ questions in these areas. 

Contact our team to learn more about how to attract candidates through value alignment.