April 22, 2021

Building a Sustainable Employer Brand

Alicia Little
Alicia Little
SENIOR MANAGER, BRAND & MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS
April 22, 2021

Yes, the title of this post is indeed a pun-laden play on words (my dad-joke-driven sense of humor is reeling) but hear me out – it’s also sage advice for your employer brand.

The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is well over 200 years old, its roots being traced back to the Industrial Revolution and a growing concern for worker well-being and productivity. The term wasn’t officially coined until 1953 and it wasn’t until the 1980s that it saw broader adoption and incorporation in modern business practice.

It is defined as (sourced from Investopedia): “a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable—to itself, its stakeholders, and the public. By practicing corporate social responsibility, also called corporate citizenship, companies can be conscious of the kind of impact they are having on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental.”

When we think about the environmental pillar, we are seeing more and more evidence that CSR and yes, environmental sustainability practices offer a number of benefits to the modern organization. It’s great for the planet, it’s great for your organization and your bottom line, and it’s great for talent acquisition and recruitment.

It’s good for the planet and humankind

You don’t need to look very far to understand that climate change is indeed a huge concern for citizens across the globe and it’s a growing priority for many governments and organizations. From the globally-recognized efforts of Greta Thunberg to recent declarations of carbon reduction targets, many are acknowledging, analyzing, and acting on methods to reduce our harm on the planet.

The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere reached record levels in 2020, hitting 417 parts per million in May. The last time CO2 levels exceeded 400 parts per million was around four million years ago.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Global Climate Report, Jan 2021

While that is just one slice of data to understand the state we’re in, there’s no doubt we need to act fast and that a collective effort of individuals and organizations is vital to repairing and reversing the damage already done.

It’s good for your company and your brand

It seems that there’s a case for companies to “do well by doing good” because consumers are becoming more eco-conscious and are putting their money where their mouth and morals are. I’m not suggesting that consuming more is the way to solve this but if you need a business case for adopting more sustainably-focused business practices or processes, there is a ton of evidence to suggest your organization will benefit.

66% of consumers would spend more for a product if it came from a sustainable brand, and 81% of global consumers feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.

-Nielsen Survey, 2021

It’s good for recruiting & talent acquisition

In a continued crossover of trends, we know that job seekers expect a more consumer-like experience when it comes to looking for and applying to jobs (we see that in rising trends around mobile device use for job search).

And the case for what job seekers want extends to their personal beliefs and the expectations they have for potential employers.

59% of workers in the US (70% globally) say environmental responsibility matters more to them now than it did a year ago.

45% of workers (51% globally) would exclude companies that don’t match their beliefs in environmental responsibility.

Decoding Global Ways of Working, Appcast, BCG, The Network 2020

If you’re already incorporating sustainability into your organization, that’s half the job done (if you’re not, that’s a whole other discussion!) but what are you doing to tell prospective candidates about it?

This is where employer branding comes in! Our employer brands often talk about the great opportunities that exist within our organizations and the strong culture but how often are you zeroing in on your sustainability efforts?

Now, more than ever, candidates are looking for companies that not only discuss and promote sustainability but are putting actions behind words (we’re seeing this with diversity and inclusion efforts too). If sustainability is part of your culture:

  • Empower your employees to share your efforts and actions
  • Use social media to highlight your sustainability strategy and the initiatives you are taking on internally and externally
  • Think about mentioning your efforts in the job description, particularly where it aligns to your target candidate persona

It’s a job seekers’ market out there and candidates will be looking for more than a paycheck. What will you do to highlight your organization as socially responsible?

Walking the talk: Greencast

It’s easy enough for me to get on my soapbox here and tell you what you should do about the sustainability aspect of your organization and employer brand but you’re likely thinking –what’s Appcast doing?

In the past year, along with our friends and colleagues at StepStone, we’ve been working to support the efforts of our global sustainability strategy. Appcast’s “branch” of that is called Greencast (shocking, right). While it’s still fairly early in our journey, we’re starting to build awareness and momentum among our employees. It’s not always easy to build initiatives that take into account 200 employees, in 4 countries, remote and in-office, and lingering Covid-19 restrictions! Here’s a few of our initiatives and plans so far:

  • Last year, we surveyed all employees to understand, in terms of sustainability: what is most important to them, what they would like to learn more about, what are they already doing at home, and what ideas do they have for Greencast to pursue. It was great insight for us, and it allows us to build accountability and ownership among all Appcastians for the actions we take.
  • With our parent company StepStone, we are part of a global effort to measure and benchmark our carbon footprint. We are in the process of collecting and analyzing (we have third-party help for this) two full years worth of data, everything from commuting data to in-office energy or paper consumption, and much more. The goal of this project is to have a measurable, data-driven (we like that!) way to focus our efforts.
  • Our VP of Operations is constantly looking for ways to reduce waste and build more efficiencies into our physical spaces – one recent example is minimizing the packaging from ingoing/outgoing mail.
  • This month we have a theme of “Spring Cleaning”! We are all working on cleaning out our excess goods – everything from clothing to footwear to furniture – and donating them to local organizations who will offer them to others for reuse or repurposing. And, because there’s no sense in getting rid of stuff, if you’re just going to get more, we have a “zero consumption challenge” that asks Appcastians to try and not purchase any new items (essentials excluded) in the month of April. I’m not sure we’ve all been successful at this one, however. I know for myself it’s raised my awareness and consciousness around how much and how often I actually buy things I do not need. Lastly, both our Lebanon office and our Fredericton office have organized cleanup days.
  • Coming up for May, we are equipping Appcastians for growth – in their gardens that is! We have a master composter (did you know that is a designation?) that will share tips and information about composting, we’re putting together some tips on plant propagation and raised garden beds, and we’ll be looking to our employees to share photos and stories of their own plants and gardening escapades.

We’re excited that Greencast is up and running and can’t wait to share more details (and pictures!) about our plans and projects.

So what’s the takeaway from all of this? In a post-2020 world, people want to work at a place that cares about the impact it has outside of its physical and digital walls. I’m not saying “build it and they will come” but build it, promote it, and share it, and it will help you to find the right candidates that fit both your job openings and your company culture. 

Happy Earth Day 2021!

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