Three reasons job seekers prefer sustainable companies

Surveys consistently show that many people claim they want to work for a sustainable company. But talk is cheap — it’s easy to endorse such a noble desire on an anonymous survey. Is it actually true?

Employees want to work for sustainable companies

A growing body of evidence suggests that it is true. At least 12 peer-reviewed studies show that many job seekers are attracted to organizations with sustainable practices. Other studies show the same in relation to social practices more generally, such as community involvement and ethical governance.

Most of this evidence comes from experimental studies conducted among university students. But students become graduates who look for jobs like anyone else. And we’ve uncovered the same pattern of findings in two field studies conducted among active jobs seekers.

In our most recently published study, we asked career fair attendees to identify an organization that was among their most attractive employment options. These job seekers reported greater attraction when they believed the organization was more environmentally-friendly. It seems that sustainable practices helped make organizations especially attractive options even among a group of the most desirable employers at the career fair.

That attraction is a source of competitive advantage. Studies show that by drawing more applicants, organizations dramatically increase their chances of hiring a top performer.

3 reasons sustainability attracts job seekers

What explains this appeal? And how can managers maximize it? Our research and other recent studies point to three mechanisms that explain why job seekers are attracted by sustainability. We’ll show you how to leverage each mechanism to attract and hire talented and committed employees through your sustainability initiatives.

Reason 1: Sustainability is a source of employee pride.

Sustainability actions often lift a company’s reputation and status, leading many job seekers to believe they’d feel proud to work for a prestigious organization admired for its sustainability. Reinforce that anticipated sense of pride by creating and celebrating a distinctive reputation for sustainability. What you can do:

  • Adopt sustainability practices that exceed industry norms and distinguish your organization from other employers, such as by integrating sustainability with your brand, products and services.
  • Link sustainability to the organization’s prestige by seeking recognition and awards from reputable third-party organizations.
  • Demonstrate employee pride through testimonials and by showing how you celebrate sustainability achievements.

Image credit: CC license by bgottsab/Flickr

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