What impact does a company's ESG policy have on attracting new talent?
By Amelia Beale
Last week, Clean Creatives hit the headlines with an open letter calling for communications and advertising agencies to stop working with fossil fuel companies. This comes on the back of growing consumer activism on environmental issues. SEC Newgate’s ESG Monitor research (released in October) showed that 51% of consumers are strongly interested in ESG issues and 39% are prepared to consider direct action if corporates fail to meet ethical and sustainability standards. It is therefore visible that a corporation’s ESG policy is impacting consumer choice and corporate partnerships, but what importance does it have in attracting new talent?
As a recent graduate, and now part of the 2022 cohort of new analysts at SEC Newgate, the importance of a company’s position on core ESG policy — such as diversity and inclusion, labour standards, and climate action — was a central influence in my career search. As I embarked on my job hunt, ensuring that I could begin my career and associate myself with a company whose values aligned with mine was important to me for several reasons.
A company that recognised, actively addressed, and made genuine(read, in bold!) moves to confront both social and environmental issues, stood on a pedestal against those who didn’t. Taking sustainable practice as an example, with COP26 placing businesses as the core drivers of environmental change, the phrase “voting with your feet” spoke clearly to me. Although just a small cog in a large machine, having the opportunity to position myself in a company that I believed was contributing in some way to authentic environmental change was an important choice to enable me to do my bit. I am not alone in this: As found in a survey by PwC last year (2021), nine in ten employees prefer to support or work for companies that care about the same issues as they do.
Not only this, but I also believe genuine and purposeful time spent on wider ESG issues speaks volumes about a company’s ethos and, as a result, reflects on their internal culture. From the outside, for prospective employees this provides an important lens into the intrinsic spirit and attitude of the business. All in all, positioning them as a respectful workplace and open environment that does not shy away from speaking about the important, and even the most difficult of issues — and hence being one I wish to work for!
Finally, for me it also comes down to the day-to-day… despite humbly bragging about my self-motivated attitude on my CV, upkeeping motivation without feeling an ounce of care for the company you work within would always pose a challenge. It becomes a lot harder to jump out of bed on a Monday morning when you don’t agree with the core values you work within. Or alternatively, being unable to see a future in a company that is failing to grow sustainably or being left behind by the cohort of companies championing for change.
While a lot of white noise and empty promises on the ESG front makes it a murky terrain, the corporate policy on these values held an important weighting in my search. Whilst I can only speak from my personal experience, I believe the importance in confronting these wider issues cannot be underestimated in recruiting and retaining new talent. With a business’ social responsibility and environmental standing currently under pressure from all angles, these areas are also likely to be of growing concern to millennials and Gen-Z newbies. So, there it is, just another reason to face the big problems!