Sustainable businesses attract the best talent — here’s how to become one

BioPak chief executive officer Gary Smith. Source: Supplied.

Sustainable business growth is among the top objectives for leaders, and it’s hard to do it alone.

Building a talented team is one of the crucial elements to maintaining a competitive advantage and successfully scaling a business, but top talent know how in-demand they are, and if employers don’t position themselves well they might lose star employees.

When it comes to attracting and retaining top talent, brands are increasingly putting the spotlight on sustainability.

While stable employment and regular paychecks may have been the hallmarks of a ‘good job’ in the past, these days employees are seeking out principled companies. In fact, a global survey conducted by LinkedIn in 2016 revealed that 74% of candidates want a job where they feel like their work matters.

The benefits of sustainability in the workplace aren’t limited to attracting employees either – two separate studies have shown that a sense of purpose at work plays a big role in retaining top talent, too.

Research conducted in 2011 by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that morale was 55% better in companies with strong sustainability programs and employee loyalty was 38% better. And, according to a 2013 study by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), companies that adopted environmental standards experienced a 16% increase in productivity.

When you show employees and potential new recruits you care about the environment and our community, they’re more loyal and productive. While it might seem like caring about sustainability is not part of your core business, it’s actually a powerful way to build a more committed and hardworking team.

So, what steps can leaders take to improve their sustainable practices and attract and retain top talent?

Take a triple bottom line approach

In their book The Sustainability Edge, authors Suhas Apte, former sustainability officer for Kimberly Clark, and Jagdish N. Sheth, professor of marketing at Emory University, explain, “the next major competency that businesses will need to pursue and fully integrate to gain a sustainable and consistent competitive advantage will be sustainability itself”.

That’s why companies are increasingly taking a ‘triple bottom line’ approach to business growth.

Triple bottom line refers to ‘people, planet, profits’ and means companies are focussed on more than just generating profit but also making a positive difference for our people and planet, too. And, in turn, by looking out for the community and the environment, companies can also drive profitability.

This approach makes companies more attractive to rising talent, improves positioning to conscious consumers, and can future-proof the company by retaining a fiscal focus.

In our experience, incorporating the triple bottom line ‘people, planet, profit’ into business DNA from the get-go provided us with an indisputable competitive advantage.

Make a meaningful difference

Business used to be all about figuring out how to make a profit and then scaling it, how things have changed.

Now, we’re seeing companies evolve from purely making money to making money and meaningful impact – profit for purpose.

More than just having a corporate social responsibility program that looks good on paper, a company must embody sustainable principles at its core.

This means analysing and improving the sustainability of operations and supply chain, making a positive difference outside of a company.

Companies should be looking at the products and services they offer, what affect they have on the environment and whether harm can be minimized or, indeed, a positive difference made.

Giving back to the community by supporting causes relevant to your business and promoting volunteering is a great way to engage your team, too.

Spread the word

Demand for sustainable products and sustainably minded businesses is growing.

According to an article published by Nielsen in January, sustainability continues to drive sales, “while we expect sustainable-minded shoppers to spend up to $150 billion on sustainable products by 2021, sustainability is starting to drive gains in everything from resource management to product packaging”.

Leverage this shift in consumer behaviour by educating your stakeholders, employees, and customers on the great steps that the company is taking not just to do less harm but also to do more good.

Getting the word out there can improve brand positioning and support the move to attract quality employees.

Gary Smith is the CEO of BioPak, a sustainable foodservice packaging company and a certified Corporation.

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Bill Fotsch
Bill Fotsch
2 years ago

Southwest Airlines, Capital One and hundreds of private companies empower employees to think and act like owners. They economically engage their employees as partners in the business, driving and participating in the profitable growth of the company. Their engagement and profit results speak for themselves, making their business sustainable. These Forbes and Harvard Business Review articles provide more background: