Author: Oscar Pusey, Junior Analyst at Zero Carbon Academy
According to a previous Deloitte study, 77% of Generation Z respondents said that it was important that their employer’s values aligned with their own.[i] With Generation Z the most eco-aware generation ever, 94% agreeing that “companies should address urgent social and environmental issues”[ii], can employers afford to overlook sustainable practices?
Understanding Generation Z
Defining generations is a point of discussion amongst many sociologists and demographers, but the prevailing opinion is that anyone born between 1997 and 2012 is a member of Gen-Z.[iii]
This definition relies upon the cultural influences at play and how they create a group of people with noticeably different values to those that came before them. Gen-Z are considered the first digital natives as they are a generation with the huge accessibility to information that the internet and social media provides.[iv]
This is a generation that is increasingly colloquially referred to as “Zoomers”, a nod to a population of young people whose early years of adulthood and burgeoning cultural identity has been undeniably altered by a global health crisis that kept us in our homes.[v]
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many members of Gen-Z watched as wildfires tore through Australia or as floods ripped through Europe. This is a generation who may have felt like passengers unable to affect change in the midst of lockdowns, but now, as the world opens up and Gen-Z find their way into workplaces, it is likely that an environmental conscience will no longer be negotiable.
The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Gen-Z is also important to consider. Work 2021: A Global Workforce View is a report produced by the ADP research institute which has revealed the impact of the pandemic on workforces. The report suggests that Gen-Z experienced the most widespread impact to their professional lives with 78% of respondents being affected compared to 64% across all ages.[vi] Gen-Z have also marked themselves out as more adaptable than other generations with 36% of respondents having changed roles or started a new role, compared to 28% overall and only 20% of those aged over 45.[vii]
Being aware of eco-awareness
In 2018, a Deloitte survey found that 77% of Gen-Z respondents want their employers’ values to align with their own.[viii] Further to this, a recent Bupa survey of 18–22 year-olds found that 64% think that it’s important that where they work is climate-conscious and 59% also said that this would make them more likely to stay in a job.[ix] Bupa themselves linked these values to a rise in the strain on mental health that the climate crisis has caused. Whilst there is not yet a clinical definition available for climate-anxiety, its symptoms of a sense of impending dread and physical sensations such as heart palpitations are similar to those defined by generalised anxiety disorder.[x] Dr Navjot Bhullar of New England university, Australia, expects the occurrence of climate anxiety to only rise as the world further feels the effects of the climate crisis.[xi]
"Negative emotions are spiralling out because the intensity and frequency of natural disasters are increasing year after year"
A survey by Blue Shield of California found that 83% of Gen-Z respondents are concerned about how the climate crisis and how it will affect their health and wellbeing.[xii] Between 1/3 and 1/4 of these respondents describe having been personally affected by the negative health effects of the climate crisis, with Londoners told in January of this year to limit their outdoor exercise for fear of the effects of air pollution this number is only likely to rise[xiii]
Why a workplace will have to work for Gen-Z
5 generation workplaces are not impossible or uncommon in 2022, this refers to workplaces where traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X, millennials and Gen-Z are all represented. In an ever more diverse society, such work environments are an important example of how a unity of unique experiences and insights can be invaluable as we tackle the biggest issues facing our society today.[xiv] It’s important to understand how and why Gen-Z fit into this.
As the numerous surveys above have explained, Gen-Z care about the values of their employer and they care about how they along with their employer can address the climate crisis and reduce the rising prevalence of climate anxiety. But what is it about Gen-Z that means workplaces should adapt to these shifts in values?
A NatWest Mentor survey found that 48% of companies in the UK have trouble recruiting, a new Global Green Skills report from LinkedIn found that the need for green-skilled workers is growing 2% faster annually than the green skilled talent pool and a Deloitte study found that 43% of Millennials plan to leave their job within the next 2 years.[xv],[xvi] This paints a picture of a job market where more and more power falls into the hands of those looking for employment and away from those looking to employ. This however doesn’t mean that the right talent can’t find its way to the right business, making simple changes today towards more sustainable practices will make a workplace more appealing to new skilled talent and allow it to ensure the future of its workforce. Dr Hasina Samji of Simon Fraser university of British Columbia puts it in no uncertain terms.
“We need to make space for young people at tables discussing climate change and impacts on people and the planet”
The uncertainty around finding talent also connects with the proven adaptability of Gen-Z as presented in the ADP report. If businesses can align themselves with the values of Gen-Z around the climate crisis, then talented and agile Gen-Z individuals could easily become an asset for enterprise.
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