Meeting the rise of the climate-conscious workforce with a benefits-led ESG strategy22.04.22
VP of Customer Delivery
There really is no time like the present for climate action. The latest IPCC report shows us with alarming clarity that immediate change is needed if we are to keep our global temperature levels within the critical window of 1.5°C higher than pre-industrial levels. This level of 1.5°C is so critical because it’s the point at which our climate scientists predict we’ll start to see irreversible changes take place: changes affecting each corner of our natural world, from ocean to land, resulting in catastrophic sea-level rise and extreme weather patterns.
But when we look at solutions to our climate crisis, where better to start than one of the largest human communities on the planet: the working world.
Workforces require action
When it comes to climate, employees are calling to their businesses for change: a 2021 Mckinsey poll revealed that 67% of employees believe their employer must make sustainability a priority, while Workday Peakon's 2020 Employee Expectations Report found an 89% increase in sustainability-related comments.
Perhaps even more powerful are the mental and emotional drivers behind these calls to action. The workforce is now starting to feel the impact of climate change on mental wellness, with 55% of participants in a 2020 study saying climate change affected their mental health in some way.
As employees become increasingly climate-anxious, they're calling to be a part of the solution, both at home and at work.
Workplace sustainability as a retention and employee retention strategy
This increased awareness of the climate crisis means prioritising workforce sustainability is no longer just a 'nice to do' activity. The increased demand from employees to see real action from their employers hits commercial returns and the bottom line.
When we look at recruitment, for instance, we see over half of UK workers confirming sustainability as an important factor when choosing a new company to work for; a figure that rises to 64% among the under 35s. And yet, almost a third of these workers feel that sustainability is just a tick-box exercise for their employers.
These sentiments get even stronger when we look at retention, with other research finding that 81% of Millennial & Gen Z employees would stay in their roles for longer if their employer demonstrated strong sustainability credentials, backed also by strong health & wellbeing programmes.
And when we look at engagement, we see links between how appealing a workplace can seem to employees and the company’s ESC score.. As we all know, an engaged employee base can drive higher profitability and higher productivity for their employer, with only 21% of UK employees feeling 'very engaged' at work.
As employers find that attracting and retaining talent is almost twice as hard in 2022 compared to 2020, companies must understand how to connect with employees through shared values, and ESG standards sit at the top of the pile for employee concerns.
The importance of green benefits
While sustainability policies have been a key communication strategy with stakeholders, investors and clients, companies are yet to use their environmental credentials to capture the attention of their own workforce.
Once again, the answer is in the data. In an IEMA study, 72% of workforce participants say that staff should be accountable for improving workplace sustainability. Employees are looking for something more tangible than just reports of eco initiatives and progress; they want to play an active role.
There is no better way to engage employees than green benefits packages, supporting and empowering each individual employee to make a difference and to have a stake in wider company environmental action.
A working example: our tree planting benefit
In partnership with Furthr, our Tree Planting benefit allows employers to meet this need through enabling the workforce to drive a positive climate impact each and every day. Employees sponsor world-leading natural and man-made climate solutions, whilst reducing their own personal emissions through tangible, easy habit changes. As a reward, employees can win monthly ‘Tree-wards’; natural experiences, planet-positive products and more trees planted.
Through this programme, employers can:
Engage each employee through connecting their own individual impact with their employer's collective impact.
Engaging in climate action is one of the key answers to climate anxiety. In general, people who live greener lifestyles report being happier than those who don't. Interestingly, those who engaged in eco-friendly initiatives in community with others experience the most significant overall impact on their sense of wellbeing.
Support employees with their at-home sustainability efforts.
With our tree-planting benefit, employers can go beyond generic suggestions by delivering practical, achievable, and personalised, sustainability advice. These are based on individual data from a personal carbon calculator so employees can better understand their environmental impact and reduce or offset their emissions.
Display positive impact on a company-wide level.
For sustainability initiatives to impact how employees feel about their workplace, they need to feel real and tangible. Employees need to be able to easily access and understand information on both personal and collective impact. Your benefits partner needs to provide you with the data, dashboards and comms you need. This means, rather than offering employees data-heavy, opaque reports, breaking down complex data into visual, personalised updates that bring a tangible element to the climate action they are contributing to. In this way, companies can strengthen employee relationships while pushing forward with the reduction and mitigation strategies needed to prevent climate disaster.
With more than 20 years experience in the UK employee benefits market, Charlotte joined Benefex in 2019 as Head of Proposition and was promoted to VP of Customer Delivery in 2022. Charlotte believes that the changing landscape of the workforce driven by both technology and social developments means now is the time for organisations to review how they can better connect with their employees to maximise engagement and productivity in an increasingly competitive market.