The hunt for sustainability positive companies
2020 will be a very memorable year for Covid-19. We are living through a historical moment. But what has taken place is a seismic shift in how we work and a complete overnight change in corporate attitudes towards flexible working and working from home.
Lifestyle articles, in the media this year, have embraced this cultural shift for all sorts of reasons, finances, health, work life balance and for environmental factors too. Anyone living in the heart of a metropolitan city will remember the ghostly silence of the streets in lockdown. Foxes roaming the eerily quiet roads, the dawn chorus being heard for the first time. Along with this startling change to a locked down environment came bluer skies, a small drop in air pollution and some time to reflect on what matters in life.
Over the last four years a trending hot topic in large corporates has been 'sustainability' and how to change work practices to limit the environmental footprint of industry. Some companies have made huge promises to be carbon neutral in just a handful of years. Others less industrious have seen this as a chance to do some ‘greenwashing’, and appear to be joining in, whilst sadly doing very little.
I am seeing this growing trend with my own Interview Coaching clients, some of them, this year, asking me if I knew how they could change companies and find a company that cares about it's environmental impact. I have put this article together to refer to going forward and hopefully expand on in the future.
In a 2017 report, by PwC, they found 65% of people wanted to work for a company with a strong social conscience. Bridget Jackson, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at PwC said, “Being green builds pride, boosting retention of top talent.”Cite Unfortunately, this has led to many companies ‘greenwashing’ their hiring websites and corporate social media in an effort to attract talent when in reality they really are not really doing much at all.
A person doing great work with companies looking to become more sustainable is Sustainability Expert Consultant Sarah Blake at Earthology. Sarah says, "Sustainability is described, according to the Cambridge dictionary, as ‘the quality of causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time’. The important part here is that if we don’t do business in a sustainable way, we won’t be able to continue as resources will run out."
How does a job seeker find a company that isn’t fudging their green credentials?
There is a certifying sustainability assessment process called ‘B-Corp’, which companies can choose to go through, to show how sustainable they are. It is a tough process to get certified. B-Corp independently measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. Helpfully there is a published list of B-Corp companies, not many on the list are household names unsurprisingly. However, it is a start. And they do have a job board but when I looked there were no job listings for Ireland and only nine jobs listed in the UK. They appear to be currently mostly targeting the USA. There are only three companies in Ireland that have B Corp certification: Cully and Sully, Danone Dairy and Urban Volt. In the UK there are 312 certified B Corps and in the USA there are 1293 listed. I think this is a listing to watch and also one to influence your own employer to thinking about joining.
A useful reference for Publicly Listed Companies with over $1 billion in global turnover, who are doing some good work on Sustainability goals, is the Corporate Knights global ranking of most sustainable large companies in 2020. They independently assess companies according to the following indicators: Percentage Tax Paid, Pension Fund Status, Supplier Sustainability Score (except financial services organizations), Women in Executive Management, Women on Boards, Sustainability Pay Link-Sanctions Deductions, Clean Revenue.
The top 5 PLc's, according to Corporate Knights assessment for Sustainable companies, globally in 2020 were Orsted (Denmark), Chr. Hansen Holding (Denmark), Neste Oyj (Finland), Cisco Systems (USA) and Autodesk (USA). They have a handy excel spreadsheet on their website to show the top 100 PLc companies, which shows the assessed indicator scores. Accenture was the only company in Ireland to make the top 100 list. And only 5 companies in the UK made the list, with highest on the list, at number 46, being Unilever.
What the Sustainability Expert Thinks
Sarah Blake also says, "Checking the company's website to see if they have committed to Net Zero or made Science-Based Targets (SBT) Commitments. It's also worth checking to see do they report on GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) or disclose information to the GDP (Global Disclosure Platform). The other important mark to look out for is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's), these are 17 goals that companies can work towards on their sustainability journey. These goals encompass more than just the environmental side and take into account the interconnected nature of business and society. They include things like Gender Equality (No.5) No Poverty (No.1) and Affordable and Clean Energy (No.7).
It is still early days in the search for sustainable employers. There is much talk and only some action. But the more sustainability is talked about as a Talent Attraction and investment tool the more companies will think hard about how to back up what they are saying with evidence to prove their sustainability.
If you are thinking of moving to a more sustainable company you will have to read between the lines to ensure it is a company that is working towards Sustainability goals. Look at company reports and assess the companies according to Corporate Knights assessment criteria. Pick the most important elements of sustainability for you and work out what the company is doing well in those areas.
What You Can Do
If you are looking to move to a Company with a developing Sustainability ethos you will likely need to demonstrate at a job interview why you want to work at their company. Being aware of the actions they are taking for a more Sustainable future will impress the interviewers.
If you are looking to remain in your current employer but think Sustainability is important you can find out if there is a working committee that is working on ideas to create an environment that is more sustainable and join in with workshops and volunteering. At the very least you will have something to add to your CV (even If applying to internal, roles) and feel good about yourself for doing something that helps make a difference.
Clare Reed is a leading global expert Interview Coach with over 22 years global interviewing and coaching experience.