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Avoid greenwashing

Avoid greenwashing: Attraction & retention suffer if sustainability practices lack authenticity

Going green can benefit staff attraction and retention, provided organisations demonstrate real commitment. According to recruiting experts Hays, if genuine talent attraction and retention benefits are to be realised, employers need to ensure their sustainability efforts are authentic.

“The drive towards a more sustainable, low-carbon way of life to tackle the threat of climate change continues to build momentum,” said Adam Shapley, Managing Director of Hays in New Zealand.

“Across all industries, organisations are responding by transforming workplaces into more sustainable environments. While many are doing this for moral reasons, there are commercial advantages too,” he said.

While these include the need to avoid alienating customers and an improved bottom line through different approaches to energy use, recycling and water and waste management, Hays highlights three other advantages employers and HR professionals should consider:

1. Staff wellbeing and productivity: A sustainable workplace can improve staff performance. Biophilic design – bringing greenery into the workplace to help people feel more connected with the natural environment – has been shown to improve employees’ wellbeing and productivity. For example, a study by Cornell University found that natural light in the office rather than overreliance on artificial lighting leads to an 84 per cent drop in symptoms of eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision. Report author Professor Alan Hedge believes optimising natural light in workplaces “significantly improves health and wellness among workers, leading to gains in productivity”.

2. Staff attraction: Potential employees increasingly have moral concerns about how green an organisation is. According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2019, which questioned millennials around the world, climate change and protecting the environment is their top concern. Given this, pursuing eco-friendly policies is starting to become a must-have in an organisation’s recruitment pitch.

3. Staff retention: Deloitte’s findings also suggest younger workers are looking for more than just good pay, and “show deeper loyalty to employers who boldly tackle the issues that resonate with them most, such as protecting the environment”.

“The evidence certainly points to employers needing to make sure their organisation is moving with the times and accommodating the needs of the modern workforce,” said Adam. “This can help them avoid missing out on recruiting top talent.

“The key is to be authentic. Any organisation that overstates their green credentials leaves themselves vulnerable to accusations of so-called greenwashing, which will have a huge impact on their employer brand and ability to attract top talent,” he warns.

It’s also important to get the support of employees at all levels. According to Adam, “Many of the small actions in creating a culture of sustainability in the workplace – like turning off lights and computers at the end of the day or using recycling bins – come down to the behaviour of staff, so getting employee buy-in is crucial to the success of many eco-friendly schemes.”

This issue is explored further in the latest Hays Journal.


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