Why is sustainability important in business

Last year, 93% of all employers in the world were looking to carry out some form of hiring. This underlines what a tough job recruitment can be. Businesses have to compete with one another in a crowded market to secure the best and brightest.  

Today’s top talent cares deeply about sustainability - whether it relates to environmental or social matters. Statistics show that companies without compelling sustainability initiatives are less appealing to candidates. And if you want proof of this reduced appeal, the Sustainability Insights survey can provide plenty of evidence.  

Conducted between May and June 2022, we surveyed 4,755 workers and jobseekers across continental Europe to discover their thoughts not only on the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the impact they are having on the job market but also, especially, on the respondents’ own job searches and the impact sustainability has on them.  

A vast majority of respondents stated that they care enough about sustainability to have already changed their behaviour as a result. A huge potential workforce is already out there that is keen to work for a company that shares its values. These employees are ready to be hired by a company that demonstrates it cares about sustainability as much as they do.  

Sustainable business is no longer simply something that is “nice to have.” It is essential for protecting the planet, tackling inequality and improving the quality of our lives - both now and in years to come. It is also key to attracting the workers that will help you fulfil your strategic goals. The future of sustainability in the workplace has arrived. Are you ready for it? 

Why is a Sustainable Business Strategy important? 

Sustainability is being championed everywhere you look. But it’s not a buzzword. An overwhelming 90% of business leaders think sustainability is important. Workers agree. According to our Sustainability Insights, two out of three workers say that sustainability is important when applying for a job. Four out of 10 admit that their decision to join a company would be influenced if it had no sustainability programme at all.  

sixty six per cent of respondents say that a company's commitments are important when applying for a job

It’s important to note, however, that creating a sustainable future means doing more than just taking care of the environment. While many of the UN’s SDGs have an environmental focus, others set their targets elsewhere. SDG 5, for example, aims to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” SDG 1 is committed to ending poverty in all its forms everywhere. Many of the SDGs recognise that sustainability is a broad term - one that encompasses different overlapping aspects of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria.  

Regarding the social aspect, for instance, one in three European workers say that “health and wellbeing” is the sustainability topic that they care most about. Other important issues highlighted by the Sustainability Insights include the provision of decent work and economic growth, as well as good quality access to education. To be truly sustainable, businesses must consider all aspects that fall under the ESG banner. 

one in three workers (34%) say they have been discriminated against based on age at least once in the past year

Making yourself attractive to “socially sustainable” candidates is essential if companies want to come out on top when competing for talent. A socially sustainable candidate is one that is keen to identify and manage business impacts, both positive and negative, on people. As such, topics like diversity, inequality and labour rights are hugely important to them.  

Notably, the kinds of initiatives that are important to these candidates can vary by demographic, including the job role, industry, location, and age. In fact, 86% of young people prefer to support or work for organisations that care about the same issues they do, with 30% having left a business due to its lack of a corporate sustainability agenda. 

Making decisions on the exact makeup of a company’s sustainability agenda should ideally involve all stakeholders, covering environmental and social issues. For example, diversity and inclusion are paramount for many candidates, especially Gen-Z workers, where 83% listed it as being important when choosing an employer.  

Candidates may be asking to work for more socially sustainable employers but such a request is mutually beneficial. McKinsey & Company found that organisations with more ethnically and culturally diverse leadership teams were more likely to outperform their peers. A recent BlackRock report into the financial performance of companies similarly showed that organisations with a better ESG record outdid their contemporaries. This performance boost will likely then be noticed by candidates, increasing a company’s appeal further. In fact, sustainability can improve recruitment in several ways. 

Sustainable recruitment 

For all the talk of the important role that sustainability can play within recruitment, evidence suggests that many companies still have work to do in this area. In reply to our survey, about four in 10 (37%) of all respondents agreed that their company was “doing enough in the sustainability space”, while three in 10 (28%) disagreed. This is something of a mixed response, suggesting that many sustainability initiatives could certainly be strengthened.    

37% of workers think their company is sustainable enough, against 28% thinking their company is not sustainable enough

Some good news: 70% of survey respondents from higher job roles (C-suite, Director, or Manager) agreed that sustainability commitments are important - a higher figure than among non-managerial workers. Clearly, sustainability initiatives have support from the highest level.  

Improving your sustainability credentials - and reaping the associated benefits for your recruitment drive - is within your grasp. Writing better job postings that clearly and simply state how your sustainability initiatives run throughout the company is a good starting point. Plus, make sure your job ad is inspiring. Your candidates are passionate about sustainability, so make sure you are too! 

Also, communicate your values using the LinkedIn “commitments” tab, such as “environmental sustainability,” to supercharge your Green Recruitment strategy. In fact, make sure you display your values prominently across all the appropriate channels. When you shout about the positive impact your work can have, you can attract a wider, more diverse talent pool. 

With over half (51%) of European workers reporting that they faced workplace discrimination once or more in the past 12 months, clearly many businesses still have work to do in creating the sort of diverse environment that appeals to candidates. More than two-thirds (69%) of respondents to our survey told us that being a part of a company that practises diversity and inclusion is important to them. Evidently, prioritising social sustainability is important to workers. 

Adopting a skills-first approach is another way of prioritising sustainable recruitment. Previously, most organisations sourced talent by posting job ads that focused on specific prior experience. In conversation with the World Economic Forum, LinkedIn’s co-founder Allen Blue, recommends focusing on skills instead. This could create more opportunities for candidates from non-traditional educational backgrounds, making workplaces more inclusive and diverse. Given that it’s predicted half of all employees worldwide will need to learn new skills by 2050, skills-focused recruitment can be a great way for businesses to future-proof their hiring programme - ensuring it can be sustained for the long term.  

How to enhance your sustainability agenda 

More and more companies from around the world are focusing on sustainability. Some well-known businesses that are making a real difference in this area include: 

  • Unilever - Multinational consumer goods firm, Unilever, publicises Unilever Compass, its sustainable business strategy, to highlight the work it does around topics like raising living standards, equity, diversity and inclusion and a waste-free world. 
  • IBM - An early proponent of sustainability, today IBM works to reduce resource demand and procure from green sources to deliver a holistic sustainability agenda. The company ensures its ESG goals lead to genuine impact. 
  • Air Liquide - Air Liquide prioritises environmental and societal actions to help further the UN’s SDGs. This includes its work on the creation of a low-carbon hydrogen economy and in improving healthcare outcomes. 
  • Nike - Nike’s Move to Zero initiative is all about creating a better future for all of us. It involves a focus on zero carbon and zero waste. The sportswear giant uses recycled materials where possible and also educates its customers on how they can extend the life of their purchases. 
  • IKEA - Multinational furniture company IKEA has several sustainability ambitions, including using its scale to enhance global forest management. The company also works hard to create products and services that support people in making positive lifestyle changes and consuming in more circular ways. 
  • AXA - AXA’s 2023-26 sustainability strategy, titled “Roots of Resilience,” focuses on establishing a clear outline of the company’s impact on nature, supporting green businesses, and advancing its sustainability reporting. The company also supports the communities in which it operates through its “Hears in Action” scheme. 

Taking inspiration from some of the businesses listed above, there are many ways that companies can improve their sustainability credentials. Start out by creating clear goals. Outline your current challenges, whether they are around company culture or resource waste and assess how you can resolve them. Then, create a sustainability strategy using input from all stakeholders - managers, employees, and customers. And don’t forget to track the results of your sustainability strategy - that’s the only way of identifying improvements. 

Why sustainability is key to business success 

At Page Personnel, we can help businesses from a broad spectrum of industries to enhance their recruitment by closely incorporating sustainability. With our expert advice, we will present your company as one that job candidates can be proud to work for - one that cares deeply about people and the planet - while making sure all legal requirements are met. We will ensure no biases exist within the hiring process so you can find the right talent for your needs. 


Why is a sustainable business strategy important? Explore the latest insights from our sustainability study. 

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