July 14, 2024

Sustainability in recruitment

Embracing sustainable values will help attract talent and is increasingly important to the future success of businesses, says Mike Pooley...

Sustainability is an expanding topic with many touch points. In this case, let’s consider the workplace. In particular, how the impact and level of awareness that a company’s focus on a sustainability agenda can provide career choices and, in turn, influence and steer them.

We recognise essential travel, cementing key business relationships and meeting our commercial objectives as being business critical in the aviation community. We also realise that having pride in performance and a strong sense of achievement is integral to advancing our careers and increasing job satisfaction.

However, when we look at filling an open or a new position, or joining a new organisation, are the next generation of graduates or rising stars expecting more from job search and placements in terms of being a right fit culturally and gaining a smooth passage into a working environment more equipped to provide better practices in meeting sustainable and eco-friendly objectives? 

To consider this question, I turned to the sector’s working communities. In particular, to two highly informed and articulate spokespersons. Their comments and insights have provided a real substance and transparency as to why a sustainable working environment and agenda is now a major focus for their own roles, the work they carry out, and also a vital enabler in meeting their career aspirations.  

CSR and ESG

Sarah Gobind-Cook, Sustainability Executive at SATS, reminds us that corporate social responsibility (CSR) plus Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) programmes are not new. They have been evolving and gathering pace over the years. Such programmes now provide businesses of all sizes and ambitions with frameworks to aid sustainable decision making, and credentials which address the increasingly concerning state of our planet. 

Sarah is typical of new group of strong advocates for a people-based business community. She feels “passionate about engagement and learning” and highly appreciates that her own role at SATS enables her to “play in a stream of sustainable activity.” 

Although challenging in scope, and certainly there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, Sarah recognises that engaging across a company like SATS and providing more awareness and education can ensure that the aspiring managers of today become the alert leaders of tomorrow. That requires a highly motivated, accountable mindset committed to a strategy and mission of developing longer term sustainable resolutions. 

B Corp

As far back as 2004, the UN called on all types of business to embrace an ESG culture in its Who Cares Wins initiative. The establishment of B Corp certification was one key result. Sarah adds that over 1,500 UK businesses, including Monty’s Bakehouse, now pursue or have achieved their accreditations. No matter whether it is seen as ‘too much hard work’ or ‘reputationally essential’ when it is cascaded down in an organisation, employees and managers involved in implementation are far better educated as a result and can become deeply invested in retaining a B Corp status. 

So why sign up for a role in a sustainably focused business? One reason is you are going to find yourself amongst likeminded people. As a result, that means more collaborating, and adding tangible value through your actions. 

Continuing this timely discussion is Saskya Liney, Sustainability Champion at From Now, a newly formed venture involved in identifying, facilitating and communicating the type of change needed to create a sustainable future for hospitality, leisure and events. Saskya is at the cutting edge of moving her own parent company – emc3, the established global events business – to the forefront of promoting a new set of eco-priorities for companies and business travellers. It is a customer base which recognises that mass events and collaborative working spaces must be increasingly environmentally conscious and viable to be sustainable.    

Both Saskya and Sarah reference the triple bottom line (TBL) objectives of economic, social and environmental credibility within a company’s mission. “Job applicants are more and more interested in a company’s values and culture, and seek to find positions at more environmentally conscious organisations in order to align their career path with their personal values,” says Saskya.

The key for employees is to connect and appeal to new starters by being honest and transparent. That connection starts by both parties sensing that each other is a good fit. “I strive to work with brands that I 100% trust and can be proud to support,” adds Saskya. 

CSR, ESG and B Corp are frameworks now embraced by many companies to encourage and promote better practice. But the pace of the accreditation processes and the capacity to represent, uphold and secure these values over time will be determined by a top-down approach from leadership and implementation by a team of dedicated people who will ensure long-term sustainable development.

Recruiting and developing this cluster of talented and committed individuals seems a key element in staying ahead and having the capability to meet the levels of tight scrutiny and clear integrity now demanded as evidence of good business practice and performance.

Tips for driving the agenda

  • Define a clear social purpose for your business through strategy, leadership and culture. Make the topic accessible and meaningful to all
    and share it.
  • Review and continue to revisit your workplace best practices. Do they align with your sustainable goals? Are they fully transparent and understood?
  • Make sustainability a key part of the recruiting and onboarding programmes. Increasingly, many talented next generation individuals will not be interested in joining your team if the values and aspirations they personally uphold are not evident in the description of the open position or the culture of the business, as advised through its value statements.   
  • Provide training and advise. Specialism is always required but be inclusive and broad across the organisation in positively exposing employees to the values of working in more
    eco-smart ways.
  • Identify easy, tangible wins. Not all businesses strive for formal accreditations like B Corp but how your unit upholds sustainable values is a positive step forward – look towards big businesses such as M&S, Nestle, Unilever and IBM for inspiration.  
  • Incentivise employees. Add recognition and achievements in this area to the key performance indicators (KPIs) and annual objectives and always promote employee ideation. There is a lot of wins for human resources and CSR professionals to add to their agenda in this context.   
  • Nurture ownership. Everyone can engage and help out. Elect and promote sustainability champions and ambassadors. Stage events and set up campaigns in the office and the community beyond. This will often attract new joiners because the culture will be appealing.    
  • Provide voluntary support. B Corp requires work in the community and education space. Getting out to experience making changes for good builds commitment as well as both pride and resourcefulness. 

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