Much attention has been paid recently to “the great resignation” – the pandemic-inspired talent exodus. It’s a phenomenon causing headaches for companies across the business spectrum – companies that aren’t sophisticated enough when it comes to delivering the new working models employees demand.
This sudden talent shift has eroded value from otherwise commercially-sound businesses, for no reason other than their failure to fully recognise that people want to work in different ways than they did three years ago.
You might say, “this stemmed from a global pandemic, it’s a unique situation”. But there’s a far-reaching lesson here: employees have become powerful activists within their businesses – underestimate them at your peril.
Nowhere is this employee activism more apparent than when it comes to companies’ sustainability strategies. Man Bites Dog conducted research among 10,000 employees across the globe and found that close to half (43%) of employees would leave their job if the company they worked for was not obviously working to reduce its carbon emissions.
At a time when talent scarcity is already on the boardroom agenda, those numbers are certainly a concern, but they’re also an opportunity.
For progressive businesses struggling to recruit, it underlines the importance of sustainability to an employer brand. Meanwhile, businesses who’ve put sustainability on the backburner in favour of near-term growth need to know that the grass is greener on the other side, and their employees will be tempted away. Much of the value they add will depart with them, putting that near-term growth back under threat.
Go green or go home
Perhaps most importantly of all, these statistics starkly illustrate that any business lacking a defined, well-communicated sustainability strategy is acting against its own interests. With pressure from investors pushing down on organisations, and pressure from employees pushing up, there’s no longer any space for laggards.
Those of us with the task of communicating our firm’s sustainability strategy and wider environmental influence within the asset management industry find ourselves right at the centre of a Venn diagram. We are directly beholden to these two activist groups at the same time: employees and investors. But through that central position, we also have an unmatched opportunity to influence the fate of not only our own businesses but the wide range of businesses that we channel investment into.
The option to sit on the sidelines and see what happens no longer remains. Sustainability is here to stay, but the opportunity to differentiate is becoming elusive as the bandwagon gets crowded. Firms must go further than ever before, they must take a stand and truly mean it, backing up their intentions with evidence of progress and commitment. They need to find increasingly creative ways to communicate their unique strengths in a way that stands out.
It’s a vast and complex challenge that each firm must face up to with its own bespoke, carefully crafted communications strategy. For those who succeed, there will be spoils – and a planet on which to enjoy them. For those who don’t try, the cost will be astronomical.