The Paris Agreement, announced earlier this month following the COP21 conference, makes the imperative on business to limit climate change impact more real than ever. Globalised corporations work across national legal and regulatory regimes, but the Agreement is truly global and will necessitate radical changes across entire industries. If businesses are to convince their stakeholders that they are fit for purpose in the climate change era they must be able to demonstrate that their long-term business models can withstand the pressure to reduce carbon emissions.
Employees – both current and future – are one of the most important groups to engage. They are the agents of change, the source of new ideas and the contributors to a renewed culture.
At MSLGROUP’s Chance for Change event, held at Sciences Po in Paris on 5th December, we looked at how the climate deal would affect the relationships between employers and Millennial employees.
Demonstrating genuine purpose in combating climate impact now looks to be, alongside other social and environmental factors, an important component in attracting the best young recruits. Repeated surveys have suggested that a sense of purpose is second only to remuneration among Millennials’ demands for their careers. They are willing to work hard, but they also feel that it is not too much to ask that their work has meaning and will benefit the world that they live in.
The Chance for Change panel featured senior representatives from leaders in corporate sustainability, including Novo Nordisk, Mahindra Group, Sodexo, Danfoss and ENEA Consulting together with an audience of Millennials. All of these companies have created a strong sense of purpose in their work and have been innovative in how they improve their own environmental and social impacts. Each of the speakers talked about the positive impact that this top-down dedication to sustainable business has on promoting employee engagement and pride in their work.
There were three key takeaways from the discussions:
- For business, already likely to face tougher regulations on carbon emissions, the tendency among young workers towards valuing positive environmental and social impacts adds further weight to the importance of sustainability to competitiveness. The war for talent is fiercer than ever. The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) suggests that by 2020, around the time that Millennials will become a majority of the world’s workforce, there could be 40 million too few college-educated workers globally. The shortage is particularly acute in the technical and scientific roles that will be especially vital to new innovation. To win their battle for the best, companies need to be able to offer employees a compelling and genuine vision well beyond the purely monetary. Mahindra Group, an Indian conglomerate, has emphasised to employees the broad social and economic value of its projects in housing, transportation and agriculture, with incentivised prizes for innovation.
- As the panel noted, the need to bridge the skills gap also underlines the importance of business and government working together to ensure that the right capacities are developed in the workforce. Danfoss, a Danish energy efficiency company, has worked with the local government in their rural base to increase the flow of local engineering talent.
- An emphasis on communication, both internally and externally, that promotes recognition of progress and ambition for sustainable business is also important to attracting, retaining and motivating Millennial employees. Lars Sorensen of Novo Nordisk was earlier this year recognised by Harvard Business Review as the world´s top performing CEO based on environmental and social governance factors alongside financial performance. Sodexo, France’s biggest employer, has put improved performance on food waste at the heart of its employee engagement initiatives. Both have seen high employee satisfaction scores.
As action on climate change becomes increasingly important both to corporate image and to competitiveness, the drive to harness the creative energies of young employees in the search of new solutions will only grow in importance. It is set to be a key feature of corporate culture in the era following the landmark Paris Agreement.
Josh Bayly is an expert in CSR and social purpose who was on point for Salterbaxter MSLGROUP for the recent ‘Chance for Change’ event in Paris on the COP21. Connect with him on Twitter @murmuracion.