How a sustainable culture attracts (and retains) talent

Logo Icon

Companies that don’t put sustainability first lose the race for talent.


  • Employees increasingly want to work for businesses that share their values, with sustainability a top priority.
  • A company’s environmental reputation plays a big role in attracting and retaining talent, often more so than prestige and salary.
  • Leaders who take an active role in promoting sustainability are seen as more competent and compassionate.

Companies are scrambling to attract talent due to record-low unemployment and the lingering effects of the pandemic. This makes life difficult for companies that have effective solutions but can’t reach their goals due to a lack of talent.

Building a strong, sustainable company culture will help companies attract the talent they need amid fierce competition.

Company culture is a key factor for job seekers looking for their next opportunity. Workers want to join inclusive businesses that take proactive stances on environmental, social, governance (ESG) issues.

Creating a sustainable culture takes time, but by leveraging clean technology solutions, businesses can make real strides towards this goal.

In other words, successful businesses foster healthy working environments, and the health of the environment.

Strong ESG performance correlates to operational efficiencies, better stock performance, and easier access to capital. Practicing sustainability improves your bottom line—securing the talent you need is just one more plus.

Sustainability is a make-or-break issue for employees

Views on sustainability have expanded, as some companies used to think of sustainability primarily as a way to mitigate climate risks and consumer backlash (or even just use less paper). But sustainability is also vital for attracting and retaining top talent in a competitive job market.

Employees, particularly millennials and Gen Z, (that’s 75 percent of the workforce by 2028) increasingly want to work for sustainable businesses. According to professional services company, Marsh McLennan, strong ESG policies are a “key lever in a time of unpredictable turnover and tough competition for talent.”

According to a 2021 survey by PwC, 86 percent of respondents said they look for work that aligns with their values. 84 percent of respondents said they are more likely to work for a company that shares their environmental values.

IBM’s Institute for Business Value (IBV) supports this view, with 70 percent of the 14,000 workers surveyed indicating they are more likely to stay with an employer that has a good environmental reputation. 27 percent of workers cited a desire for meaningful work as their reason for quitting—second only to a desire for more flexibility (32 percent).

“I just want to make a difference” is an increasingly common refrain that hiring managers hear from employees.

One quarter of respondents also said the desire to work for a company that matched their values was their reason for changing jobs. Tellingly, only 55 percent of workers gave their employers high marks for meeting expectations around values and ethics. “I just want to make a difference” is an increasingly common refrain that hiring managers hear from employees.

Being able to attract talent that is engaged with, and motivated by, a company’s ESG stance means lower costs from turnover. Replacing an employee typically costs around $1,500, including staff time dedicated to recruitment and training.

Everyone wants to be proud of the work they do. This is especially true given the ‘cool factor’ that clean technology jobs and all things sustainable enjoy in society. Employers that aren’t doing their part to combat climate change face employee resignation (literally and psychologically).

Having a sustainable job that benefits the planet gives people pride and meaning. Sustainable jobs also keep workers engaged, even if the company doesn’t make a lot of money.

For instance, research on 113 S&P 250 companies found no meaningful correlation between a company’s financial performance and employee satisfaction. The same study showed a strong link between employee satisfaction and perceptions of company environmental performance.

Proactive management attracts talent

In order to attract talent, some businesses may look to overcome their sustainability deficit by banking on prestige and offering higher wages. While this may create short-term benefits at the recruitment stage, it does little to stem the departure of unhappy employees.

A sense of consistency between personal and company values often trumps a hiring manager’s main incentive—a bigger paycheck. Roughly half of employees surveyed by IBM said they would accept a lower salary to work for a more environmentally-sustainable company.

What does bolster employee satisfaction is company leadership. Specifically, management’s commitment to sustainability. Managers set the tone for organizational values and culture. As such, leaders must be role models if a business wants to successfully enshrine sustainability as a core value.

Many companies have already realized management’s key role in promoting sustainability, with the number of chief sustainability officers tripling in 2021 compared to 2020.

Leaders must be role models if a business wants to successfully enshrine sustainability as a core value.

Moreover, companies with explicit, written ESG statements and leaders that visibly promote sustainability are viewed more positively. Potential employees infer that leadership therefore also cares about employee wellbeing.

Specifically, employees who feel their values align with those of management perceive the latter as not only better at making socially responsible decisions, but also better business decisions. In short, a sustainable culture bolsters trust in management.

Employees are looking for sustainable employers, and employers that successfully attract and retain talent demonstrate clear sustainable performance.

After all, ESG policies that are backed by quantifiable emissions reductions are far more convincing. Boosting sustainability and avoiding greenwashing means investing in an energy efficiency strategy that successfully cuts costs and emissions.

EnPowered helps businesses achieve their sustainability goals

Investing in clean technology solutions will help you create a sustainable company culture that attracts the right talent. But faced with a crowded marketplace and funding barriers, many sustainability campaigns never reach their full potential.

EnPowered Payments—our on-bill payments platform—lets businesses purchase clean technology solutions with no upfront costs and minimal risk, using their energy savings to repay their chosen asset. Once the solution is paid off, companies enjoy even lower energy bills and all the solution’s savings.

Want to learn more? Reach out today to see how EnPowered supports your sustainability performance as you build a culture employees want to be a part of.

Logo Icon
Dee Falkiner

Director People & Culture

Dee joined EnPowered in September 2021. Dee has over 20 years of experience in HR business partnership in a variety of industries such as CPG, beverages, and tech. Dee’s expertise lies in coaching, training and development, human capital management, people programs and projects, talent, and succession planning. Dee graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Western University and a Post-Graduate Certificate in HR Management from Sheridan College. Dee is happiest when she is with her family and outdoors, and is an avid volunteer and cheerleader for small-town life.