With ESG issues topping the list of business priorities, employers are realising the potential of using employee benefits to engage their people and support their ESG responsibilities. But are you checking all the right boxes when it comes to sustainability or is there more you could be doing?

Greenwashing just won’t wash anymore 

A recent study by Mercer revealed that organisations are embracing the sustainability agenda, with a quarter of companies saying that they already align their CSR strategy with their benefits offering, yet a report from IBM found that only 21% of people consider their current employers to be sustainable. 

Employees are more educated on sustainability issues than ever before – according to IBM, one in three of those respondents who changed jobs last year accepted a position with an employer they consider to be environmentally sustainable (35%) or socially responsible (40%), while 34% accepted a job offer for a role where they can directly influence environmentally sustainable outcomes. 

Sustainability has become a requirement

We know that ESG is not just a nice-to-have anymore. Domestic and international laws, regulations, policies, politics and various commercial pressures are now in place to motivate businesses to address the climate change agenda. This has seen organisations broaden their ESG mission to ensure they are complying with this green agenda, and it is helping to attract talent, with many employees prioritising sustainability when it comes to choosing an employer.  

This becomes even more pertinent when you consider that by 2029, the workforce will mainly comprise millennials and Gen Z for whom ESG is a deal-breaker in all aspects of their lives. Organisations’ sustainability stance is under the microscope and transparency is everything. Employers need to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to sustainable business practices. 

Four sustainability questions to ask yourself

To ensure that you are able to confidently check the sustainability box when it comes to your own business, here are some ESG questions to consider: 

1. Are you aware of your carbon emissions as a business?

What measures are being taken to reduce the business’s total carbon footprint? Are you exploring every area of the business to improve areas that don’t adhere to your ESG agenda? 

2. What is the business’s impact on the local and global community?

Do you have any gaps and areas where improvement can be made, depending on your particular industry? Your HR teams need to be ready to answer these questions, so doing your due diligence and arming yourself with the information you need can help build a case for more sustainable practices.  

3. How are you becoming a greener business?

How green are the actions you have in place – can you do more? How are you aligning your actions with your overall strategy? What areas could you improve on? How are you using your resources? Think of the waste you produce and how this can be offset.

4. What are your key sustainability measures?

There are three key criteria for sustainability: economic, environmental and social. How many areas does your company comply with? What measures are you using to assess your capability in each area? 

Employee benefits as a sustainability tool 

As the Mercer and IBM studies clearly highlight, leaders need to recognise that the employee appetite for sustainability is not going anywhere – and there is plenty more that businesses can do to show their commitment to sustainable practice and policy. Our recent Great Expectations report found that workers want to connect with issues close to their hearts and minds, with 83% of respondents saying that they want a stronger sense of belonging and community. That means focusing your benefits strategy on the things that your employees find important is good for business, the wider community, and our planet.

“Using employee benefits is one way to show your people that you are listening to them and are prepared to put your ESG policies front and centre of your business,” explains Charlotte Godley VP of Customer Delivery at Benefex. “Having a poor strategy in place is a huge risk to your brand, and it can negatively impact the employee experience, not to mention not fulfilling your legal obligations to the global sustainability agenda. Organisations need to be completely transparent about what they are doing – and plan to do in the future if they are to gain the confidence of current and prospective talent, and your employee benefits strategy is the perfect tool to use to enhance your commitment.” 

Our Guide to Sustainable Benefits for Rewards Directors offers advice and information about how to incorporate your benefits strategy into your sustainability efforts to enhance the employee experience and improve your own ESG practices.