Are CSR and Sustainability the New Magnets for Top Talents?

Jan 05, 2020 1 Min Read

Attracting and retaining the right talent is a fundamental building block for business success. But recruiting staff and keeping them is getting harder. Putting together a team of exceptional people is much more than simply getting hires in with the right skills and paying them a decent salary.

Demand for labour is strong, and ambitious candidates are getting increasingly picky about who they work for. Brand voice and business culture when it comes to recruitment and retaining people matter much more now than most businesses realise.

Corporate social responsibility programs (CSR) and environmental strategies are taking centre stage in the list of things exceptional candidates expect from a business. CSR and sustainability can be viewed as new magnets for talent. Here’s why.

Millennial Workforce Demands

How to engage millennials in the workplace is hot in the press, for good reason: By 2025, millennials will make up three-quarters of the workforce.

Forbes has reported that millennials “put an emphasis on corporate social responsibility, have a great reverence for the environment, place higher worth on acquiring experiences than material things, and are adept at building communities around shared interests.”

Research by Gallup says that millennials are currently the least engaged generation in the workforce, with only 29 percent engaged, 55 percent not engaged and 16 percent actively disengaged.

The 2019 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey states that “Millennials’ opinions about business continues to diminish, in part due to views that businesses focus solely on their own agendas rather than considering the consequences for society.”

Engaging and retaining millennials is the new business productivity puzzle.

Why Sustainability in Business Matters

We have much to thank the digital age for. Enhanced transparency is just one of its benefits. The era of information is upon us. Among the daily flood of information is news that we are heading for a climate catastrophe is everywhere.

Couple digital transparency with the opinions of the millennial generation and it’s not hard to see how sustainability has become an attractive strategy for businesses, for both brand promotion and attracting talent.

Millennials are educated, knowledgeable and socially aware. They are committed to sustainability, equality, climate change, peace and justice. They demand sustainable and ethical business practices both as employees and as consumers. Millennials are a huge generation that simply can’t be ignored.

The American clothing company, Patagonia, was founded more than four decades ago. The business has always been focused on sustainability and the environment. It embodies a responsibility to proactively do good. The company is a huge success story. It’s a brand millennials love.

Energy consultancy, Geo Green Power, says they have seen a surge in businesses making the move to more sustainable energy options. “The number of businesses contacting us for energy consultancy is growing year on year. Businesses are starting to take the issue of climate change and sustainability seriously,” says Kitty Cunningham, operations director. “Companies are making simple changes from switching energy supplier to conserving energy by addressing things like insulation and changing to LED lighting.”

Cunningham goes on to say that, “An increasing number of companies are also considering bigger projects, such as installing biomass boilers, ground source heat pumps or solar panels in a wider move to support environmental sustainability.”

CSR Surging in Popularity

John Clese, director of CSR Solutions, a software company that creates solutions to enable businesses to offer CSR programs, argues that CSR is surging in popularity in business largely because millennials demand meaningful CSR initiatives from their employers.

This, he says, isn’t because they have the luxury of choosing where they work in today’s labour market, but is due to the fact that millennials have a genuine desire to have purpose.

“Young people in the workforce today are more purpose-driven than any other generation before them, and to me, this is the most significant difference between the generations and the driving force behind CSR programs,” Clese explains.

Many larger corporations have long seen the difference CSR programs can make to employee engagement, and also in attracting and retaining talent. Smaller businesses are now seeing they too can benefit from making an investment in the local community through CSR.

Multinational professional services network, PwC, says in its study on people management that corporate responsibility is no longer an altruistic nice-to-have, but a business imperative. Their research found that 90 percent of US respondents actively seek out employers whose corporate responsibility behaviour reflects their own.

“New graduates look for employers with strong environmental and social credentials; in response, HR departments play a key role in developing the corporate social responsibility program.” The report also highlights a popular post-2010 trend: Candidates now look for incentives such as paid secondments to work for social projects and needy causes.

There is overwhelming evidence to suggest CSR and sustainability are the latest ways to attract talent. This is good news for millennials, society and the planet.

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Annie Button is a writer who specialises in business growth and development. Annie shares her experiences and knowledge through blog posts in a variety of publications.

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