BOSTON — Despite a labor shortage that is driving businesses to desperate for hire and an economy that is wreaking havoc on bank accounts, young people are increasingly hesitant — or outright reluctant — to work for a company that doesn’t has no climate-friendly policies.
The cultural shift in attitudes from those of previous generations shows that Gen Z and young millennials consider more than just wealth when making life decisions.
Earlier this month, the Boston Foundation hosted a virtual forum to analyze Boston’s inaugural climate progress report by researchers at Northeastern University. They found that Boston is on the verge of missing its key climate goal: net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Chris Cook, executive director of the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston, said accountability shouldn’t just rest on individual action, big business should weigh in too.
“I think that’s something you have to be responsible for, just like you have to be responsible for racial justice,” said Cook, Boston’s former chief environment, energy and open space officer. “So as a business model, it’s practical.”
Generation Z and Generation Y are overwhelmingly concerned about climate change
Polls show that Gen Z and Millennials are extremely concerned about climate change than previous generations. Some companies recognize this and prioritize integrating sustainability into their mission statements to attract young professionals.
Richard Locke, one of the founders of MIT Sloan’s Laboratory for Sustainable Business, says outdated views on sustainability are changing and becoming more mainstream. Large corporations can capitalize on this and implement – or at least appear to implement – green initiatives.
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“A lot of these people think sustainability is just something that’s going to be bad for business, instead of thinking it can be good for business,” Locke said. “Which I am convinced of.”
Millennial Maggie Phelan, treasurer of the Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative, says she is among young people who have turned down a job offer with higher pay to work at an institution that matches her ethics and values.
“I’m not a crazy person – I thought about that,” said Phelan, who lives in Eastham and also works at the Collaborative’s annual Net Zero conference. “It’s tough when you have a family and someone is dangling that carrot. But in the end, I wouldn’t have been happy with a company that wasn’t based and dedicated to serving my community.
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Phelan works as a banker at Cape Cod 5, which was ranked ninth in America’s Best Banks to Work For. She says the bank’s products and services empower its customers and employees to be climate-conscious and strive to become carbon neutral.
“Our benefits allow us to be more environmentally conscious, including reimbursements for electric and hybrid vehicles, a LEED Gold-certified corporate office with on-site amenities, EV fees and paid time off to volunteer from community organizations of our choosing,” Phelan said. “I think the key is that environmental stewardship is a lens through which we look at everything we do.”
Gen Z, millennials changing work culture, attitudes
The ability to have career choices drives young professionals to follow their hearts without risking financial ruin.
Marcus Bogan, 25, a graduate student at Northeastern University, thinks his generation — Gen Z — has very different values than previous generations.
“We value the quality of life rather than the one we overwork in,” he said. “The ‘live to work’ mentality is causing older generations to give up their values in order to make money, as we have begun to dismantle the mindset in favor of values that contribute to sustainable living and to longevity.”
How to find companies that have climate change policies
Online searches for green companies or companies that have climate change policies aren’t the best way to find answers, Phelan said. She recommends starting with stories about the best places to work based on employee surveys like Top Places to Work in Massachusetts 2022.
There are also employee surveys that focus on different industries or company sizes, such as top start-ups or top banks, she said.
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Read what employees are saying in surveys and look up people you might know or can find on LinkedIn and message them asking for information about company policies, she said. Talking to employees is the best way to gain a better understanding of the work environment and ESG policies – which stands for Environment, Social and Governance.
ESG reports are also part of a company’s annual report, she said. The ESG report provides information about a company’s policies on climate change and sustainability.
Writer Anne Brennan contributed to this report.
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