Future Finance Leaders: We’ll Shun Environmentally Challenged Firms

Almost half of business school students say they'd take a lower salary to work for an environmentally conscious employer.
David McCannDecember 3, 2015
Future Finance Leaders: We’ll Shun Environmentally Challenged Firms

If you think your company can get by without paying a lot of attention to environmental issues, perhaps you’re right. But you’re not likely to have the pick of the litter when it comes to hiring young finance staff.

Climate ChangeThat’s according to new research from Yale University’s Center for Business and the Environment and the school’s Project on Climate Change Communication, which surveyed students at 29 business schools in 25 countries.

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Among the 3,711 study participants, 44% said they’d be willing to accept a lower salary to work for a company with better environmental practices, given a choice between employers that were equal in factors like company culture and job responsibility. What’s more, 19% said they would not accept a job at a company with bad environmental practices, regardless of how high the salary was.

“Companies that are ahead in the [environmental] field will benefit in the accelerating recruitment race for top talent; [those] that are lagging may find recruitment more difficult and expensive,” wrote the study’s authors, led by Laura Franceschini, a 2014 recipient of a Master of Environmental Management degree from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Almost two-thirds (64%) of study participants said they didn’t think businesses are making sufficient efforts to address environmental challenges. Of greatest concern to business students were risks related to climate change and four specific areas of resource supply: energy, air, water, and natural resources/materials. A majority said they believed those issues will have negative effects on business operations.

Almost all of those surveyed (96%) said they thought businesses should be leading efforts to address climate change, and 71% said governments and companies have equal responsibility to ensure that companies are not harming the environment.

Study participants pointed to five ways companies should engage with and take action on environmental issues:

  • Address environmental sustainability goals and targets through industry collaborations and multi-stakeholder partnerships.
  • Measure both positive and negative impacts of their activities on environmental sustainability outcomes.
  • Instigate board-level discussion and action on environmental sustainability issues.
  • Practice integrated reporting of financial and environmental sustainability metrics.
  • Incorporate environmental sustainability issues into discussion with financial analysts.

“Simply put, the brightest talent now rising into ranks of leadership expects corporations to step forward on climate change and is drawn to work for those that do,” the authors wrote.

Along with Franceschini, others identified as “lead” authors of the study included Jennifer Wang, a Ph.D. student at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Studies; and Todd Cort, a lecturer in sustainability at the Yale School of Management.

The Yale teams collaborated on the research with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Global Network for Advanced Management.

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