Workers Willing to Make Less to Work for Sustainable Companies

A company's sustainability efforts are becoming so desirable for employees that some are now willing to give up part of their salary to work for one, new research shows.

More than 15 percent of employees in the U.S., U.K. and Germany have taken a pay cut to work for a sustainable company, astudy by consulting firm Bain & Co.  found. In addition, more than 30 percent of employees said they were willing to accept a pay cut of at least 5 percent to join a company that's considered a global sustainability leader.

More than one-third  have excluded specific industries for employment because the companies  didn't match their personal sustainability beliefs, while more than 20 percent have rejected specific companies, the study found.

This was especially true among younger employees. More than half of those under age 40 felt that a company’s approach to sustainable business practices has influenced their decision about accepting a job, compared to just 29 percent of those over 40.

Overall, 70 percent of employees worldwide have a greater concern for sustainable practices than they did three years ago.  The study attributes that rise to a greater awareness of global issues and a perceived higher urgency for companies to play a role in addressing them.

The research found that employees are placing greater importance on behaviors related to eliminating negative effects of business practices, including ensuring employee safety, reducing pollution and eliminating child labor, than they did philanthropic activities.

"We’re seeing direct evidence that individual attitudes on global sustainability are affecting employers’ ability to recruit and retain engaged talent," said Jenny Davis-Peccoud, head of Bain’s Social Impact Practice and lead author of the study.

The study shows that once within a company, younger employees expect to play a role in shaping their employers' sustainability agendas. Half of those under age 40 felt they personally influenced their employers’ sustainability efforts, versus just 27 percent of those over 40.

"We’re seeing the era of piecemeal philanthropic activities give way to an age where sustainability is becoming a part of the way that a firm does business," Davis-Peccoud said. "Employees will demand to be at the forefront of driving their employers to change."

The study was based on surveys of 746 employees from 20 different industries in three developed countries, the U.S., U.K. and Germany, and in three emerging market countries, China, India and Brazil.

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