Matthew Kim, a senior studying economics at the University of California, Berkeley, is currently in the middle of his search for a job after graduation. But instead of focusing on a big name or a lucrative starting salary among the finance and consulting firms he’s evaluating, Kim is prioritizing how the company measures up. 

“At the end of the day, wherever I choose, I’ll be working there for at least the next couple of years hopefully,” Kim says, adding that he wants to put the time in now to find a company that can show it’s aware of climate change. “That is more important to me than a competitive salary. If I can have that versus like a six-figure starting salary, I’ll take that any day of the week,” Kim adds. 

“If a company wants to drive more sustainable efforts and reduce the carbon footprint, then that’s a huge plus for me. Just because it shows this company has very high morals,” Kim says. “I was honestly surprised at researching companies which ones were, and which ones weren’t.” 

It’s not enough for organizations to simply say they prioritize sustainability; the youngest generation of workers like Kim are demanding companies to walk the walk. A majority of Gen Z said that they would avoid working for employers with a perceived negative effect on the environment. new report from Handshake This survey included 1,800 respondents. Previous surveys found more than half of younger workers refused to consider jobs at organizations that lacked diversity and 62% reported they’d be more likely to apply if a company committed to equal pay.  

“We’re definitely seeing Gen Z be more vocal and take their values into consideration when making decisions in a way that previous generations perhaps didn’t do as visibly at this stage in the game,” says Christine Cruzvergara, Handshake’s vice president of higher ed and student success.

That’s not to say that’s it’s easy or that Gen Z has perfected a sustainability-first approach when it comes to their employment. They must weigh opportunities that may mean forgoing more lucrative opportunities at a tie in their lives where they aren’t exactly rolling in the dough. And for those who can afford to these traits among potential employers, it can be a challenge to decipher which organizations are fundamentally committed to environmentally-sound practices, and which are just putting up window dressing.

Gen Z leads with a value-driven approach 

Mya Jacobs (24 years old) decided to move from being an intern to a full time position at a New Orleans-based PR company after graduating in May 2020. “The pedigree of the company brought a level of genuineness and authenticity to the work that was unmatched to my previous job experiences,” Jacobs tells The Sunday Review. Jacobs claims that these values are ingrained in everything the black-owned company does and continues doing. Jacobs believes climate change is not something that requires special attention.  

Unfortunately “climate change” Jacobs states that “buzzword” is now a popular term. “An informed candidate has to be able to break that down into manageable and measurable qualities to get a good idea of what that company is really about,” Jacobs adds that she was focused on finding out if prospective employers had the right skills. “good bones” In terms of who founded it, who works there and what was its core identity. 

A big portion of Gen Z who are in the early stages of their professional careers have lived through grim climate report cards that predict drastic changes over the next 30 years—in other words, during their lifetimes—if countries and corporations don’t act. Cruzvergara says that this became a part their identity. It reflected who they are as well as what they stand for. Many aren’t content to wait for change. 

“For previous generations, it was a little bit more of a mentality of if you bide your time. You get in, move up, and then you can start to change the structure. Gen Zers are a bit different in that they’re looking at the future and they’re looking at opportunities saying, if you’re not going to meet my expectations or my values, I’ll find it somewhere else or I’ll create it myself,” Cruzvergara says. 

Activism is generally a rich man’s game

Gen Z, like all generations before it, is diverse and comes from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. All that’s to say: There are members of Gen Z who can’t afford to be as focused on issues like sustainability and corporate carbon footprints. “Demographics and socioeconomic status do play a role here,” Cruzvergara says. There’s a reason that activism is still in many ways a rich man’s game.

“You will always have a subset of students, and of the job-seeking population [overall], that quite frankly does not have the privilege or the leeway to necessarily only go for the companies that they would ideally like to work for. They need to go for a company that can pay them a salary that can allow them to pay off their bills or loans. That’s just the reality,” Cruzvergara says. 

Gen Zers who fall within this category want to be able focus on company culture at some point. “They would often be the ones to say, look, I hope one day, I might be able to work in a place that I really believe in, but at the moment, that’s a luxury that I just can’t afford,” Cruzvergara adds. “And that’s okay.”

Some companies find it difficult to connect

To attract top-talent, organizations know the importance of a forward-looking culture. Handshake’s survey found 65% of respondents were more likely to apply to a job with a company that was committed to sustainable practices. 

Words and phrases such as “sustainability,” “climate pact,” “climate corporate responsibility” They are now more common in job postings. In the early days of the pandemic, there was a dip in climate-related keywords, but since September 2021, Handshake reports they’re back in a big way. These keywords have been mentioned more than twice as often since summer 2020. 

It is difficult to connect the dots between job listings and actionable steps taken by organizations. According to the study, 34% (or 34%) of C-suite leaders believe that their companies are investing a lot of money on climate change. Aon’s recently released 2022 Executive Risk Survey.

Every brand has strived to deliver value messaging since 2020. “bleeds together,” Jacobs adds that she tends to pay more attention when someone is advocating for a brand and can show how it has affected her life.

“It’s really hard to assess if a company has sustainable practices when you’re outside looking in,” Jacobs says. “I tend to look straight for the money—where’s the funding and what’s the dollar amount that a company is placing on their sustainability? Money is where the priority is.”

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