Sustainability is a competitive advantage for attracting talent

May 31, 2022 | Shannon Blog

Several blog posts and articles within the last few months have noted how practicing sustainability can help companies with attracting talent. In September of last year, online education provider GetSmarter published a blog post highlighting research stating “56% of individuals say they’re more likely to remain with employers that contribute towards action in sustainability.” Last week, a Schneider Electric HR manager was quoted by Human Resources Online who said her company’s research shows “sustainability efforts increasingly matter to employers, and business leaders.” The HR manager went on to say that based on Schneider Electric’s findings “93% of respondents indicated that they will switch jobs based on a company’s ESG and sustainability performance.”

The drumbeat among job seekers for employers who embrace sustainability isn’t a recent one either. Nearly 10 years ago, the non-profit Network for Business Sustainability featured comments on its website by researchers David Jones of the University of Vermont and Chelsea Willness from the University of Saskatchewan highlighting this trend. Jones and Willness wrote, “At least 12 peer-reviewed studies show that many job seekers are attracted to organizations with sustainable practices.” According to Jones and Willness, sustainability attracts job seekers in three ways:

  • First, employees are proud to work for a company that’s admired for its efforts to conserve energy and battle climate change.
  • Second, if a company shows concern for society, then it’s likely the employer cares about its people, too.
  • And third, managers who introduce sustainability into operational practices prove to employees that being green and saving energy isn’t an idea; it’s woven throughout the culture.


Sustainability is beneficial, but efforts lag

The media has repeatedly reported that sustainability practices conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We can now add attracting talent to the list. Despite the benefits, many companies still don’t have sustainability programs in place. A BSD Consulting-Thomson Reuters report from 2016 showed the world’s 500 largest businesses, as a group, were not reducing GHG emissions at a rate recommended to positively affect climate change.[1]

Although conserving energy, slashing GHGs and attracting talent are clearly linked to sustainability efforts, launching a sustainability program might be overwhelming for organizations without a person focused on the effort. Or if a program does exist, success can still be elusive. Here’s why:

Getting a sustainability program off the ground and making it successful requires:

  • economic reasoning,
  • emotional appeal, and
  • simplicity.

Regarding economics, stakeholders must see sustainability will help the organization’s top or bottom line. Managers must demonstrate how a program saves money, reduces energy consumption, attracts customers, or protects profits.

While some in an organization will be swayed by economic reasoning, others want to know they’re doing good by their fellow workers, customers and/or society. That requires appealing to an employee’s heart. Managers should consider showing how a sustainability program would protect resources for the next generation, or the employee’s children’s children; emotional appeals will rally some people to a cause.

As for simplicity, any program should be no more complicated than necessary to achieve goals like reducing GHGs or cutting energy consumption. For example, Shannon Global Energy Solutions often explains how important it is that insulation makers develop blankets with exacting specifications and standards in mind and custom fit acoustic and thermal insulation for each application and component, so that workers can easily remove the blanket, inspect a component, and replace the blanket in a minute or less. Adherence to specifications, tests like ASTM and UL, and design make removal and reuse simple. Simplicity is critical for keeping the insulation on a component and saving hundreds of dollars per year per component. That, in turn, adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars or more annually across a plant, refinery, or other processing facility with hundreds or thousands of components.

Research shows the value of a sustainability program now extends beyond saving energy and resources. An employer’s ability to hire workers may well depend on how seriously and successfully an organization promotes sustainability. A simple way for any employer to begin or advance its sustainability efforts is with an investment in removable, reusable insulation.

[1] Global 500 Greenhouse Gases Performance 2010-2015, by John Moorhead (BSD Consulting) and Tim Mixon (Thomson Reuters)