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Environmental Policies Increasingly Important to Future Leaders

Environmental Policies Increasingly Important to Future Leaders
Credit: Szefei/Shutterstock

Companies trying to attract future business leaders should focus on being environmentally friendly, as this is becoming a bigger priority for the leaders of tomorrow, new research finds.

A large number of today's business school students are placing a greater priority on working for companies with good environmental practices over those willing to pay them the most money, according to a study by researchers at Yale University in collaboration with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Global Network for Advanced Management.

The study found that 44 percent of the business school students surveyed are willing to accept a lower salary to work for a company with good environmental practices, while nearly 20 percent would refuse to work for an organization with poor environmental practices, regardless of how high their salary was.

Overall, 84 percent of the students surveyed want to work for businesses with good environmental practices, while 67 percent want to incorporate environmental sustainability into their careers, regardless of their role or industry.

Peter Bakker, president and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said the role of business in society is changing.

"Business leaders need to understand the complex nature of sustainability issues and integrate solutions for social and environmental challenges, with the need for good financial results," Bakker said in a statement. "If business schools and business can deliver against this call for change, the necessary transformation toward a sustainable future will clearly be much more impactful."

The research shows that most students think businesses should be doing more for the environment. Nearly 65 percent of those surveyed said they do not think businesses are making sufficient efforts to address environmental challenges. [Millennials Want Jobs With Social Conscience ]

The environmental issues of most concern to the students surveyed include climate change and four specific areas of resource supply: energy, air, water and natural resources/materials. A majority of the students said they believe that if these issues are not addressed, they will have negative effects on business operations in the future.

The students pointed to five key steps they believe organizations should take to improve their environmental impact:

  • Address environmental sustainability goals and targets through industry collaborationsand multistakeholder partnerships.
  • Measure both positive and negative impacts of their activities on environmental sustainability outcomes.
  • Instigate board-level discussion and action on environmental sustainability issues.
  • Practice integrated reporting of financial and environmental sustainability metrics.
  • Incorporate environmental sustainability issues into discussions with financial analysts.

The study revealed that students think that, in addition to being able to attract top future talent, placing a greater emphasis on improving their environmental practices will help businesses in many other ways. They think better environmental performance will increase brand value and strengthen public trust, enhance innovation and new solutions through research and development, reduce fines and fees in an increasingly stringent regulatory environment, and improve market competitiveness.

Students also want to see more action from the business schools they currently attend. The research found that 61 percent of students think business schools need to hire more faculty and staff with expertise in sustainability, while 64 percent want more career services and counseling on sustainability-related jobs.

"Worldwide, today's business schools are being called to act from the very people we're training as leaders," said Edward Snyder, dean of the Yale School of Management.

The study was based on surveys of 3,700 students at 29 business schools worldwide.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.