Sustainability strategy is a holistic, triple-bottom-line approach that considers the environment, society and profit in the development and implementation of business strategy. As you consider your corporate brand, think not only about your products and services but also about how prospective and current employees view your organization. What type of message are you sending about your employee culture, corporate values, environmental policies and community commitments? The best and brightest applicants are considering your sustainability strategy as they consider who will be their employer of choice.
While the environmental components of sustainability such as carbon and water footprints are the foundation of sustainability, they represent a step in the process rather than the whole journey. As an organization embarks on a holistic sustainability journey, the path broadens and encompasses all aspects of the operation including corporate culture, ethics, community citizenship, governance, employee engagement and human rights, to name a few.
A key tenant of sustainability strategy is stakeholder perception of your corporate culture and values. Many prospective employees use environmental policies as a measure of corporate value. In 2007, MonsterTRAK reported that 92% of students and entry-level workers are seeking an environmentally friendly company for employment. Once employees are hired, sustainable practices can have a significant impact on retention. The results of a Green Workplace Survey by SHRM indicate that 66% of employees at companies that are engaged in environmentally sustainable practices are likely to remain with those firms because of their perceived importance of these programs.
Potential new hires aren’t just concerned with the environment. They want to feel that they are joining a team with whom they can make a difference in their communities and beyond. According to a Net Impact survey, 72% of college student feel it is important to select a job in which you feel that you can have an impact. The bottom line is that employees care about your environmental, social and employee policies and they use them as major criteria in selecting where they choose to work.
Sustainability programs have a significant impact on prospective recruits viewing a company as an employer of choice. According to a 2011 SHRM survey, 89% of organizations rated the importance of sustainability strategy as “important” or “very important” in creating a positive employer brand that attracts top talent. Further support that prioritizing sustainability impacts employees’ perceptions of employers of choice comes from a 2011 Deloitte survey, which found that 70% of millennial job seekers said that a firm’s community image is an important determinate in job selection. Clearly your sustainability message and image have an impact on attracting the best talent.
Corporations pride themselves on being named to the best places to work lists, such as “Employee Choice Awards” or the “100 Best Places To Work.” While each ranking uses unique criteria, organizational trust and credibility as well as corporate culture are key components.
The top firms rank high on ethics, credibility and trust and not surprisingly, also on sustainability metrics such as work/life balance, diversity and inclusion. Ranked as #8 on CNN Money's 2013 “100 Best Places To Work” list, Edward Jones, a mid-size financial services firm, is seen by its employees as a place where they can make a difference. The corporate culture is that of an “overgrown family” with employee programs such as profit-sharing and flexible hours. Volunteerism is part of the corporate culture and associates are given a paid day a year to volunteer in their local communities.
Candidates are considering your corporate brand and industry ranking as they choose their careers. As you create your brand and recruiting message, don’t forget about the importance of incorporating and communicating your sustainability strategy. both prospective and existing employees are looking for companies to embrace sustainable values and to make them part of the culture. As evidenced by the “best places to work” list, filled with firms that have fully embraced sustainability, incorporating a triple-bottom-line approach strengthens your brand image for recruiting and retention of employees.