Company Culture

Seeking Sustainability

Organizations that have increased their sustainability efforts have also witnessed increases elsewhere–like in their acquisition and retention of top talent.

By Melina Fairleigh, SVP of People at Flock Freight

After a steep decline in 2020 and a steady rate of increase in 2021, technology job postings are now the highest they’ve been since the start of the pandemic. In February of this year, 178,000 new IT roles were filled, and tech-related hiring contributed to the national growth of 467,000 jobs.

With that, businesses are facing a major roadblock that’s preventing them from attracting top talent: a lack of sustainability initiatives to better align company values with the new age of job seekers’ core values. Capgemini Research Institute found that most organizations aren’t prioritizing sustainable IT. In fact, just 43% of executives are aware of their organization’s IT footprint, and only 18% of organizations have a comprehensive enterprise-wide, time-oriented sustainability plan in place.

In order to “win” in the age of The Great Resignation and meet job seekers where they’re at now, brands must prioritize sustainability across every facet of their organization and follow through on their commitments in an authentic way.

A Deeper Look into Sustainability in Tech
Sustainability has become an umbrella term that’s often misused. Many companies have increasingly been making headlines for greenwashing or conveying misleading details around how environmentally sound a company’s products are.

One challenge that many of the world’s tech companies face is figuring out ways to incorporate green energy into their foundation. Another is collecting and recycling electronic waste. Studies show that in 2019, only 17.4% of electronic waste was properly recycled. While Europe held a leading position in this regard, much of their processes involve illegally exporting e-waste to developing countries, showcasing the vicious cycle that can occur when trying to hold businesses accountable for these efforts.

Sustainability has unfortunately become an overused buzzword, which makes it that much more critical for organizations to think deeply about the impact they are making on the environment within every sector from transportation systems to e-waste.

What Top Candidates Look For
In addition to The Great Resignation, organizations are also now seeing that the pandemic has drastically changed the way people think and act on environmental issues. One study from BCG found that 70% of consumers are now more aware that human activity negatively impacts the climate and contributes to degrading the environment, which is a direct threat to humans. The study also reports that 75% of people say environmental issues are either just as or more concerning than health issues–a surprising factor in the age of COVID-19. Job seekers have the upper hand in today’s market, and it’s safe to say that many–if not most–will ask about global sustainability efforts.

Measuring what it means for a business to be sustainable is largely subjective to the product or service it sells. Lowering the carbon footprint can be accomplished in many ways, yet several tactics are still widely de-prioritized or vastly unknown by tech firms.

Greenwashing isn’t always a simple thing to catch, and some companies may not realize the extent to which they are doing so. It would be valuable to take a look at where greenwashing could happen in unexpected ways, from marketing campaigns to a product’s shelf life, and eliminate any practices that may fall under this category. This requires effort and collaboration from every single team within the business, and there may not be a quick fix. Committing to cleaner practices not only protects the environment but allows companies to create a devoted employee base that deeply cares about climate change.

Another option is to look into getting a B Corp Certification, which measures a company’s entire social and environmental impact, helping businesses remain accountable to the outward and inward promises they make. In order to get certified, businesses must go through a rigorous risk review and make a legal commitment by adjusting their corporate governance structure to be accountable to all of their stakeholders, beyond simply shareholders.

It’s also important to get buy-in from teams. Consider forming an employee resource group (ERG) that’s geared toward improving the company’s sustainability practices. These teams can conduct a range of activities, such as hosting community cleanups, rewarding teams who participate in sustainability efforts, providing education about sustainability as a technology practice, and rallying support for carbon offset programs. Inviting various team members to be a part of the solution will help initiatives get developed faster, and it will help spread awareness for why the business is focusing on these efforts, which is particularly critical for those who may not yet understand the big picture impact of this topic.

Choosing to make sustainability a core pillar will help organizations hire and retain top talent. Companies that are working diligently to make it part of their company culture will find that this motivates employees and resonates with a growing number of customers.

Melina Fairleigh is SVP of People at Flock Freight

Tags: July/August 2022, Sustainability

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