News Analysis

Climate quitting causing younger people to shun job offers over ESG

by Dan Byrne on Jan 25, 2023

Climate quitting could cost firms crucial new talent more than ever before, according to new data from the United Kingdom.

Despite uncertainty in the job market, younger workers are still happy to demand a positive ESG record before signing on to work for an organisation. 

While we know that older generations of corporate leaders react less positively to ESG, this news begs the question: will their opinions matter much if their younger colleagues stay away?

Let’s dive in:

What is climate quitting?

Climate quitting means deciding where you work based on employers’ commitment to combat climate change. 

In some cases, we can broaden ‘climate change’ to encompass all of ESG (environment, social and governance), but the green movement generally takes centre stage. 

People who ‘climate quit’ will leave a job or reject an offer because they want a role with a better green footprint. 

So far, young people are driving this movement, at least in the UK.

How do we know that?

A new report from KPMG was released this week, highlighting the importance of the climate crisis to younger generations, particularly millennials (early ‘80s to late ‘90s) and generation Z, or zoomers (early ‘00s to early ‘10s). 

From over 6,000 individual responses, the survey found that: 

  • Nearly half wanted the company they worked for to have some kind of commitment to ESG. 
  • One in five have declined a job offer because they felt the company’s ESG standards weren’t good enough. 
  • This above figure was one in three when considering just the 18-24 age range. 
  • Around half of all working adults between 18 and 44 valued their employers’ good ESG record.

Is this surprising?

No, not according to the experts behind the survey. 

Head of ESG at KPMG UK, John McCalla-Leacy, suggested the results reflected waning progress against climate change, despite increasing urgency. 

For the last few years, the COP summits have highlighted this discrepancy. 

“… it is unsurprising that this, and other interrelated ESG considerations, are front of mind for many when choosing who they [young people] will work for,” he said this week.

“By 2025, 75 percent of the working population will be millennials, meaning [companies] will need to have credible plans to address ESG if they want to continue to attract and retain this growing pool of talent.”

Should firms be concerned?

Concerned? Maybe. At the very least, they should give this thought. 

Talent shortages motivated by principles are not something that a company could consider solved after a short burst of attention. It’s the opposite. It’s a new normal. 

What’s more, ESG progress across the corporate world is a mixed bag at best. 

Take, for example, new findings from just across the border in Ireland. There, legal firm William Fry found that only 17% of employers are actually aware of their ESG obligations. 

The report added that even those who know their goals have little appetite for implementing them.

But that’s just Ireland, right?

Yes, but it’s part of a broader game of ‘catch-up’ that businesses struggle with. 

Take new findings from Deloitte at the start of this month. They revealed four in five of the 300 senior finance, and legal firms in the US needed more confidence in their ESG reporting ability. 

Reporting is the primary channel for companies to communicate what progress, if any, they have made.

So what next?

The problem is the cultural divide over climate change (or the broader ESG, depending on the context) between older and younger generations. 

While pre-millennial, less-ESG-minded workers still control many global recruiting efforts, the people they’re trying to win over think differently. 

So, ultimately, the choice is either to please and make life simpler or ignore and face talent shortages.

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