World leaders are demanding radical change on a global scale. Mega-issues such as social justice and sustainability occupied the news agenda, with the pandemic placing a strong emphasis on environmental protection after factories shut down, skies cleared of planes and roads once crowded left deserted. In response, governments around the world pledged to cut carbon emissions, with the UK aiming to decarbonise all sectors of the economy to reach its goal of net zero by 2050.
In the wake of COP26, every industry has been scrutinized to determine its contribution to climate change, and by 2023 most major UK businesses will have to establish detailed public plans to find out how they will transition to a low-carbon future. The financial services sector is no different, but industry leaders actually have a huge opportunity to drive meaningful cross-industry change. Financial services companies support the infrastructure of other industries by funding them, and therefore a sustainable and more purpose-driven financial services sector can create more sustainable practices in other verticals, such as manufacturing , construction, transport, agriculture and energy.
Financial services companies that want to have a greater impact on the world focus on three main areas. First, they need to look at their own operations to make them as sustainable as possible – including a review of the suppliers they work with. Second, they must create a strong CSR policy that is both adhered to and communicated, both internally for staff and externally for customers, suppliers and the wider market. Third, they must work to create a more diverse workforce, through social mobility and an inclusive company culture that prioritizes employee well-being. In this article, I’ll focus on the third prong – how industry employers can drive more impactful change through talent attraction and retention.
Calling on the talents of Gen Z to lead by example
If we look at today’s financial services workforce, we see older millennials reaching the C-suite, occupying leadership roles with deep industry knowledge. At the other end of the scale, Gen Z workers are moving up the career ladder, many of whom are passionate about protecting the planet and make their mark in the workplace. Together, these people form a powerful and transformative combination that can lead to real change.
Not only has the pandemic highlighted the causes we care about, but it has also helped individuals better understand their own professional goals. The latest Workmonitor survey of Randstad found that “the concerns and disadvantages [workers have] altered have profoundly altered their outlook and desires. Taking control of your destiny…has become the defining characteristic of the post-pandemic workforce”. Almost half (42%) of 25-34 year olds now cite having meaningful work as the most important consideration in their career choice and more than a third (35%) want to work for respected employers and caring. That’s a colossal number of individuals who crave more goal-oriented roles. By hiring these enthusiastic young minds now and forming cross-generational collaborations within teams, financial services leaders can be the driving force behind more sustainable business initiatives.
Promote sustainable practices
Gen Z workers no longer have to compromise between corporate roles and sustainability-focused careers, and there are plenty of opportunities for those who want to act now. We are seeing huge demand from our own clients for talent with a passion for sustainability, who want to embark on ESG-focused projects, and the competition for these people is tough. Just as investors are now taking a closer look at the funds they invest in to make sure they match the impact they want to have on the world, young people are taking a closer look at the promises service organizations are making. to check that they match their own interests and career goals.
Historically, ESG may have been seen by some as an asset, but it’s now a business imperative for those who want to attract the brightest talent. Gen Z is hungry to be part of the change, but first they need to see a commitment from their potential employers. To have a chance of attracting the best and most passionate minds to their teams, financial services organizations must demonstrate their commitment to ESG-focused programs and roles. If they don’t shout about their efforts, they won’t attract the young talent they need to make a difference.
By supporting Generation Z and giving young people a voice on locally focused environmental initiatives, financial services companies have a great opportunity to both drive game-changing change in their own industry, but also to inspiring a legion of other sectors to think about and defend these practices themselves. Of course, finding enthusiastic people who want to make a difference is half the battle, but a battle worth fighting when you consider the benefits of doing so. Financial services companies with higher ESG ratings generally perform better financially and have a higher market value, boosting both investor and consumer confidence. At the same time, by putting green initiatives higher on the business agenda, they can implement changes that will have a lasting impact on the global market and society as a whole.
About the Author: Daniel Sutherland is the director of the financial services practice of Grayce, a UK-based fintech technology solutions provider. He specializes in change consulting, providing solutions based on people and technology. It also helps FTSE100 and 250 financial services organizations create sustainable talent pools, close skills gaps and shape tomorrow’s leaders, today.