‘Climate quitters’: One-fifth of UK workers have turned down jobs based on poor ESG commitments

New research released by KPMG has found that 20% of UK office workers would turn down a job if environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors were deemed lacking, with almost half of workers wanting their employers to demonstrate climate and social commitments.

‘Climate quitters’: One-fifth of UK workers have turned down jobs based on poor ESG commitments

Across all age categories, 82% want to be able to link values and purpose with the organisation they work for

KPMG surveyed around 6,000 UK adult office workers, students, apprentices and those who have left higher education in the past six months on their attitudes to work.

The results, published today (24 January), show that ESG factors are influencing employment decisions for almost half of UK workers. Indeed, the survey found that 46% want the company they work for to publish and demonstrate ambitious ESG commitments.

The survey also found that 20% of respondents have turned down job offers based on a company’s ESG values not aligning with their own. This rises to 33% for those aged 18-24, suggesting that this could become a much more common trend over the coming years.

Additionally, the survey found that 51% of 18-24 years olds value ESG commitments as a reason to work for a company, rising to 55% for 25-34-year-olds. Less than half (48%) of 35-44-year-olds value ESG commitments.

Across all age categories, 82% want to be able to link values and purpose with the organisation they work for. Indeed, 30% have researched a company’s ESG credentials before applying for a role. Environmental impacts (46%) and living wage policies (45%) were the key factors that workers looked at.

KPMG’s head of ESG John McCalla-Leacy said: “It is clear from recent COP27 discussions that, while some progress is being made, there is still a long way to go if we are going to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C. It is the younger generations that will see the greater impacts if we fail to reach this target, so it is unsurprising that this, and other interrelated ESG considerations, are front of mind for many when choosing who they will work for.

“For businesses the direction of travel is clear. By 2025, 75% of the working population will be millennials, meaning they will need to have credible plans to address ESG if they want to continue to attract and retain this growing pool of talent.”

Grass is greener

Last year, a survey from Censuswide on behalf of Arriva found that the majority of UK adults would consider leaving their current job in order to pursue a role they perceive as “greener”.

Of the 3,245 people surveyed, 97% said they care about, or worry about, climate change to some extent. This concern is clearly impacting career choices. In all of the sectors represented by those interviewed, more than half of the respondents said they would consider changing roles to either an organisation with better environmental sustainability credentials than their current employer, or to a role where there would be more of an opportunity to drive a positive environmental impact.

Reports suggest that 3.2 million workers will need to “boost their skills” if the UK is to meet its 2050 net-zero target. This figure covers upskilling and retraining. Among the sectors most affected, the report states, are construction and transportation, where 30% and 26% of workers respectively will need upskilling.

However, new jobs created to help drive the UK’s transition to net-zero could pay 18% more than the national average salary – and 30% more than the average salary offered by companies in high-emitting sectors.

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