Gen Z employers reject the show where companies have to step forward

Matthew Kim, a senior at the University of California at Berkeley who studies economics, is already in the midst of his hunt for a postgraduate job. But instead of focusing on a big name or a profitable starting salary among the financial and consulting firms he’s considering, Kim is prioritizing how the company performs.

“At the end of the day, wherever I choose, I’ll be working there for at least the next couple of years, hopefully,” says Kim, adding that she wants to take the time now to find a company that can prove it is aware of climate change. “This is more important to me than a competitive salary. If I can get it compared to a six-figure starting salary, I’ll take it any day of the week, ”adds Kim.

“If a company wants to promote more sustainable efforts and reduce their carbon footprint, then this is a huge plus for me. Just because it shows that this company has very high morale, “says Kim.” I was honestly surprised to find companies which were and which were not. ”

It is not enough for organizations to simply say they prioritize sustainability; the younger generation of workers like Kim are asking companies to follow the path. According to a new Handshake report that surveyed 1,800 users, about 60% of Gen Z say they avoid applying for jobs with employers that also have a perceived negative impact on the environment. Previous surveys found that more than half of younger workers refused to consider jobs at organizations that lack diversity, and 62% said they would have been more likely to apply if a company had committed to ensuring equal pay.

“We’re definitely seeing Gen Z being more outspoken and taking their values ​​into account when making decisions in a way that previous generations may not have done so visibly at this stage of the game,” says Christine Cruzvergara, Handshake’s chief education strategy officer. .

This is not to say that it is easy or that Generation Z has perfected a sustainability-focused approach when it comes to their use. They need to consider opportunities that could mean giving up on more profitable opportunities at a time in their life when they’re not exactly rolling in the dough. And for those who can afford to evaluate these characteristics among potential employers, it can be a challenge to decipher which organizations are fundamentally engaged in environmentally friendly practices and which are simply showcasing their shop windows.

Gen Z leader with a value-oriented approach

Mya Jacobs, 24, decided to transition from an intern to a full-time role at a New Orleans-based PR firm after graduating in May 2020. “The company’s pedigree has brought a level of genuineness and authenticity to work that was unmatched with my previous work experience, ”says Jacobs Fortune. Instead of issues like climate change that require special calls to get attention, Jacobs says these values ​​are embedded in everything the black-owned organization does and continues to do.

Unfortunately “climate change” is a buzz word now, says Jacobs. “An informed candidate needs to be able to break that down into manageable and measurable qualities to get a good idea of ​​what that company really is,” says Jacobs, adding that she focused on figuring out if a potential employer had “good bones.” in terms of who founded the organization, who works there and what was the central identity behind the work.

Much of Gen Z who are in the early stages of their professional careers have experienced sad climate report cards that predict drastic changes over the next 30 years, in other words, throughout their lives, if countries and societies do not act. For many, this has become part of their identity: who they are and what they want to represent, Cruzvergara says. And this means that many are not satisfied with waiting for real change.

“For previous generations, it was a bit more of a wait-for-the-moment mentality. You enter, go up and then you can start changing the structure. Gen Zs are a bit different in that they look to the future and look to opportunities by saying, “If you don’t meet my expectations or my values, I’ll find it somewhere else or have it create it myself,” says Cruzvergara.

Activism is generally a rich man’s game

Like all generations, Gen Z is a heterogeneous group that spans demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds. All of this to say: there are Gen Z members who cannot afford to focus on issues like sustainability and corporate carbon footprint. “Demographics and socioeconomic status play a role here,” says Cruzvergara. There is a reason why activism is still a rich man’s game in many ways.

“You will always have a subset of students and the job seeker population [overall], which frankly does not have the privilege or the leeway to necessarily address only the companies for which ideally would like to work. They need to look for a company that can pay them a salary that can allow them to pay their bills or loans. This is just reality, “Cruzvergara says.

Those of Generation Z who fall into that bucket, however, generally want to be able to focus on the company’s culture and values ​​at some point. “Often they were the ones who said, ‘Look, I hope someday I might be able to work in a place I really believe in, but at the moment it’s a luxury I can’t afford,’ Cruzvergara adds.” And that’s okay. ”

Some companies struggle to connect

Organizations know that presenting a climate-oriented approach is important in recruiting the best talent. The Handshake survey found that 65% of respondents were more likely to apply for a job at a company engaged in sustainable practices.

Meanwhile, words and expressions such as “sustainability”, “climate pact” and “corporate responsibility for the climate” have once again crept more and more into job advertisements. In the early days of the pandemic, there was a decline in climate-related keywords, but since September 2021, Handshake reports, they are back in a big way. Since summer 2020, mentions of these keywords have doubled.

However, it is difficult to connect the dots between the advertising language on a job listing and organizations taking actionable steps. According to Aon’s 2022 Executive Risk Survey, only about a third (34%) of C-suite executives say their companies are spending a lot of time on climate change.

Every brand since 2020 has pushed hard to deliver messages of value, so now it all “bleeds together,” says Jacobs, adding that it tends to pay more attention when it’s a person who supports a brand who can explain how it has impacted their lives.

“It’s really hard to gauge whether a company has sustainable practices when you’re out looking inside,” says Jacobs. “I tend to look for money directly: where is the funding and what dollar amount is a company investing in its sustainability? Money is where the priority is.”

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