For the past fortnight Glasgow has played host to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). Glasgow was chosen for its ability to hold a sustainable and inclusive conference with the aim of developing strategies for creating a carbon neutral planet by 2050. Glasgow’s diverse landscape interspersed by parks and rivers was deemed an inspiring location to host the innovative conference. There were four key goals of the conference:
- Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
- Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
- Mobilise finance
- Work together to deliver
Whilst an agreement has been reached, it is clear there is still much to do if we are to keep 1.5 in our sights. Many organisations will have to adapt quickly to improve their carbon footprint. Here, we consider the responsibility organisations have in prioritising sustainability, and why sustainable organisations are better placed to attract top talent.
Employment Market Post-Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic created a focus on business survival rather than growth, businesses were forgiven for having to take drastic decisions such as increasing costs or making redundancies to ensure survival. People were reluctant to change roles during the pandemic for fear of a last in, first out strategy being adopted. However, as we return to restriction-free life, confidence levels are increasing and the job market is bouncing back with force.
As we emerge from the pandemic and in light of COP26, there is increased demand to ‘build back better’ and make sustainability a priority. A quarter of the European Union’s €750 billion Covid-19 recovery fund has been assigned to combat climate change. The focus has shifted from ensuring businesses survive, to ensuring the planet does; with both product and service businesses now being held accountable for their impact by clients, employees and the wider community.
“Greenwashing” is prevalent, with businesses claiming they are environmentally friendly when in actual fact these assertions are often exaggerated. Unless a company can back up their claims by fact it is unlikely that they are being transparent.
Whilst we can all be doing more to reduce our carbon footprint, it is large organisations which can have the most instant impact. These organisations must focus on having a positive effect, rather than merely having a neutral impact in order to mitigate the risk of the planet’s temperature rising by more than 1.5 degrees. This will ensure the triple bottom line (people, planet, and profit) is protected and successfully nurtured.
Demand for Green Businesses
Despite the mounting environmental damage demonstrating why organisations must change their ways, there is also increasing evidence that implementing sustainability practises could have a great impact on an organisations’ people and profits. A Network for Business Sustainability study found that top talent was attracted to sustainable organisations for three reasons; employee pride, aligned values and an improved level of feeling cared for.
A study by Futerra found that 88% of people would like support from brands to be more environmentally friendly and ethical. Household names such as Ikea, Marks and Spencer and Lush have found that their sustainability initiatives have helped to attract top talent, with increased demand to work for a company which makes a difference. Sustainability is of highest importance to millennials. When given the option to work for two different companies, 40% of this candidate pool would make their choice based on whether a company has a sustainability agenda. Similarly, with studies finding that up to 70% of employees would only stay at a business long-term if it had a sustainability agenda, the case for implementing such is strong. Lack of finance and perceived costs are the biggest deterrents of implementing sustainable practises; but the ability to create a competitive advantage which attracts employees could be highly lucrative counteracting initial costs.
With increased awareness of “greenwashing” organisations must prove their environmental impact; best achieved through using an unbiased third-party. There has been a surge in carbon accounting software businesses in recent years, providing insight into organisations’ impact on the environment and recommendations as to how to reduce carbon footprint. This service makes climate action and compliance more easily accessible through expert guidance.
Despite the ease of using such a service, a recent British Chambers of Commerce study found that only 11% of organisations were measuring their carbon footprint. This figure is expected to increase as a result of COP26 and increased legislation on environmental impact. With increased demand from candidates to work within sustainable organisations, transparency, traceability, and impact measurement should be at the core of business and hiring strategies. While sustainable initiatives will be introduced for the benefit of the planet, it’s the businesses who do not act now that will suffer from higher employee turnover, inability to attract top talent and increased retraining and staffing costs.
At Rutherford Cross and the wider Livingston James Group we are actively implementing sustainable changes with the introduction of a sustainability group paving the way for the wider business. Current initiatives include our Cycle to Work scheme, monitoring the amount of waste the business produces and accessing monthly Carbon Reports to measure our impact on the environment. Although there is still lots to be done to make our business net zero, we look forward to embracing lots more changes in the near future as we strive to make a positive difference to the planet.
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