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Is Your Prospective Employer Eco-Friendly?

Here’s what to ask a future or existing employer to find out.

Key points

  • Having a sustainable and environmentally friendly company policy is an important asset, according to many current job seekers.
  • An interviewee has an opportunity to ask questions about the eco-friendly programs an employer offers.
  • Socially responsible companies offer recycling, waste prevention, conservation and volunteer programs, among other policies.
Tom Wang/Dreamstime
Source: Tom Wang/Dreamstime

If you’re like many job seekers, you’re looking for job security, good pay, work-life balance, and overall well-being, as underscored by a Gallup poll released Monday. But Gallup revealed deeper insight into a job seeker’s criteria last year: A whopping 70 percent of them also said a company’s environmental record weighs into whether they would accept a job. In fact, a quarter described it as a “major factor.”

So how can you ensure that your next employer will be aligned with your concerns about being sustainable and eco-friendly? What can you ask them about socially responsible programs to address climate change without being intrusive? And if you’re in a job now where you’d like to see a greater commitment to these policies, what can you do?

An Eco-friendly Employer is of Value to Many

Sustainability has entered the mainstream, so you’re hardly an outlier if you're asking about it during a job search. For example, in an April 2021 Mastercard study, 85 percent of adults worldwide said they’re willing to take personal action to combat environmental and sustainability issues in 2021. Greater awareness of the fragile nature of the planet due to massive fires, hurricanes, and floods in recent years—and with COVID-19 driving home that fragility—has certainly played a role.

So you may be searching for more sustainability choices throughout everyday life, from how you shop for household products and apparel to where you work. Need further proof you’re not alone? According to the Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey, climate change and protecting the environment is the number-one issue for Gen Z workers, and it comes in third for millennials. And in a Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study, 75 percent of millennial workers said they would take a pay cut to work for an environmentally friendly firm.

Questions You Can Ask an Interviewer

Here are some general, preliminary tips:

  • Do your homework. Make sure you’ve done your research to ensure that your employment prospect is at least within your realm of acceptability. For example, have your online searches uncovered background on environmentally friendly policies via their website or annual report?
  • Speak with employees. Take advantage of any inside sources at the company, including employees or internal recruiters. Find out details of any eco-friendly programs from their perspectives.
  • Be diplomatic. Tread carefully and know your timing when you ask questions during the interview. Choose a friendly tone as opposed to anything that might appear challenging or harsh.

Consider asking the prospective (or current!) employer the following:

  1. Does the company encourage recycling, and, if so, how?
  2. How green are your products and services?
  3. Do you discourage waste, and encourage waste prevention programs?
  4. Does the company support any environmental organizations?
  5. Does the company partner with any environmental groups?
  6. Does the company encourage volunteer work with community groups dedicated to a cleaner environment?

If this is an important aspect of your job satisfaction, don’t discount it or hope you’ll “get over it in time.” If the company seems dismissive of your questions or gives you general answers that you can’t live with, it’s better to know upfront.

Steps to Take at Your Current Employer

So, what if you’re not part of the Great Resignation, but just want to see a greater commitment to sustainability at your current position? You still can have an impact. Keep in mind that, to the extent to which you can marshal support or join the efforts of others, there’s power in numbers.

Here are some ideas to help your employer think (and “act”) green:

1. Turn it off. Get in the habit of turning off lights and equipment after hours, including when public conference areas are not being used. If there hasn’t been a recent memo or energy savings seminar on “what you can do,” consider recommending such an initiative in your department or talking to your manager.

2. Recycle. Has there been information readily available on how to recycle or dispose of certain types of waste? Are there enough recycle stations and signs available? If not, take the lead in making changes. You’ll likely find that this issue is near and dear to many people around you.

3. Add green to the office. Did you know that adding office plants reduces carbon dioxide and other pollutants while boosting oxygen levels? You don’t need to bargain for a jungle-themed cubicle, but do consider adding a few good plants that thrive in low light.

4. Carpool, use sustainable transportation, and encourage remote work. Remote work just received another checkmark: reducing the carbon footprint. And if you have any say on the topic, this is your chance to help encourage alternative transportation.

5. Bring your mug to work. Avoid using paper, plastic, and Styrofoam cups where possible, including plastic bottles. Every little bit helps.

6. Engage in green volunteer programs. There are many options for environmental causes in the community. It’s likely that you and your fellow employees can have your voices heard in recommending programs. Many companies have realized that this is the socially responsible path to take and that it builds a happier workforce.

Whether you’re seeking a position with a sustainably-minded employer or want to make changes at your current one, you have the right to ask questions—and the ability to have an impact, too.

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