In the past year’s tight labor market, many employers have been rethinking hiring criteria and looking for competitive advantages to recruit workers. An organization's performance on environmental and social issues is particularly important to young talent, according to the new Bentley-Gallup Force for Good study.
Americans aged 18 to 29 are more likely than those in all older age groups to say it is “extremely important” that businesses operate in an environmentally sustainable way (77%) and that they reduce their carbon footprint and/or emissions (73%). Young adults are also more likely than older Americans to say it is extremely important for businesses to focus on long-term social benefits; promote diversity, equity and inclusion; and create opportunities for low socioeconomic groups. All of these importance ratings are at least 10 percentage points higher among adults under age 30 than among those 60 and older, and in some cases, more than 20 points higher.
These results are based on more than 5,700 interviews with U.S. adults in June 2022 via the probability-based Gallup Panel.
This study measured public views on businesses’ adherence to five environmental and social goals:
- Operating in a way that is sustainable for the environment and planet
- Reducing carbon footprint and/or emissions
- Focusing on long-term benefits to society instead of short-term profits
- Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion
- Creating opportunities for low socioeconomic groups
While the youngest adults are the most likely to say it is extremely important for businesses to promote environmental and social values, middle-aged Americans (45 to 59) are the least likely to agree.
Notably, the importance that businesses promote environmental and social issues does not decline by age in a linear fashion. In fact, the oldest group of Americans -- aged 60 and older -- are at least five points more likely than those aged 45 to 59 to view each of these goals as extremely important.
This finding holds across major political parties -- among both Republicans and Democrats, the percentage of older adults who view these social and environmental goals as extremely important is higher than the percentage among middle-aged people.
Few Young Adults See Businesses Excelling at Operating Sustainably
While adults of all ages do not believe businesses are doing well at addressing social and environmental goals, young adults are especially critical. While one in three Americans aged 45 and older (33%) say businesses are doing a good or excellent job of operating in a way that is sustainable for the environment, that figure drops to about one in seven (14%) among those aged 18 to 29. Similarly, 30% of those aged 45 and older say businesses are doing an excellent or good job at reducing carbon emissions, versus 12% of those aged 18 to 29.
On social impact goals such as promoting diversity, equity and inclusion and creating opportunities for low socioeconomic groups, young adults are also significantly less likely than those in older groups to feel companies are doing well.
Seven in 10 Young Workers Would Leave Their Organization for One That Has a Greater Positive Impact
The data suggest that businesses should consider their reputation for environmental and social responsibility with regard not only to attracting new young workers, but also to retaining current employees. Overall, 55% of current U.S. employees say they would leave their current employer for an organization that has a more positive impact. However, 71% of workers aged 18 to 29 and 62% of those aged 30 to 44 respond this way, versus less than half of those aged 45 and older.
The Bentley-Gallup Force for Good study finds that Americans of all ages almost universally feel certain business practices are very or somewhat important -- including treating customers and employees with respect, making money in ethical ways, and offering fair wages to workers of all types. However, younger employees are particularly likely to feel that having a positive social and environmental impact is nearly as important.
Given that many Gen Zers and millennials look for work opportunities that contribute to their sense of wider purpose, companies that demonstrate a genuine commitment to being a “force for good” are more likely to both attract talented young people and keep them engaged in their work.
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