Marketers for Good: Why it Pays to Be Green

By Joanne Lucy, Managing Director, Major Players 

The UK’s race for talent has never been so fierce a competition as in the past two years, and the marathon is far from over. As of October this year, 10% of UK businesses were experiencing a shortage of workers. With an ageing population and rampant skills shortages set to continue in the long term, it’s imperative that businesses take action now to make themselves more attractive employers.

But it’s not all about beefing up pay cheques. In fact, among the more than 3,000 professionals surveyed as part of our UK Creative Industries Census this year, 75% said purpose was one of the most important factors when considering their next career move.

Candidates are increasingly asking the companies they work for to demonstrate a positive impact across sustainability, social equity, diversity and inclusion, and businesses are having to listen and align if they want to employ the best of the best.

And with two-thirds of digital, marketing and creative businesses on a mission to hire within the next six months, the pressure to become a force for good is piling on.

It’s not an easy ask. In the current age of rapid technological change, C-suites find themselves caught between shareholders wanting them to adapt quickly to maximise profits, employees who no longer see themselves in a job for life and customers whose expectations have shifted.

But an increasing number of businesses are becoming accredited B Corps – firms which have proven their dedication towards championing people, communities and the environment alongside their pursuit of profit. There are now more than 1,400 B Corps in the UK, including the likes of Patagonia, Gousto, the Guardian, and ourselves, Major Players.

While it’s a start, gaining accreditation or highlighting responsible practices isn’t enough to attract and retain talent by itself. In the coming years, it will become increasingly important that businesses present an authentic understanding of their purpose and showcase culture in action.

Those businesses that can authentically humanise their purpose will be far more successful at attracting new talent and engaging and retaining the talent they already have. It’s crucial that businesses show their efforts in purpose are more than just a badge or PR stunt.

Protecting the bottom line

This is particularly true when it comes to attracting younger, up-and-coming talent, who are by far the most in tune with purpose. In our Census results, those aged 18-34 had a greater expectation that businesses should have a clear purpose which goes beyond profit, including a strong stance on the environment.

In fact, talent within this cohort are increasingly aware of environmental, societal and geopolitical issues, and have formed their own personal sense of purpose. They expect businesses to align with them, not the other way around.

Businesses that fail to harness change and relegate purpose to the bottom of their priority list will find hiring and retaining skilled talent increasingly difficult. Companies are nothing without talent; failing to employ the best could end up putting a serious dent in your bottom line.

So, while spending on sustainability, for example, may seem like a cost to shareholders, it’s actually a vital investment in the future of a business’s workforce.

That means investing to improve a company’s internal sustainability by cutting down its carbon footprint. It means ensuring a sustainable supply chain, picking partners or clients carefully based on their environmental credentials and constantly demanding better from them. And it means putting your profits where your mouth is to help fund initiatives that positively impact the world.

As Mark Weinberger, global chairman and CEO of EY, says: “Investments in people may have short-term costs… but that kind of long-term thinking is critical in a world of inclusive growth. Indeed, one of businesses’ most important contributions to society is driving sustainable, long-term growth while investing in solutions for the challenges of tomorrow.”

That said, it’s natural that as sustainability becomes a more established part of a business’s strategy, stakeholder scrutiny will increase. That’s not just from shareholders, customers and external groups, but among employees too. Complete transparency is, therefore, critical.

Businesses must be honest with all stakeholders when they’re not quite where they want to be. They need to embrace ambiguity. They need to be clear on the end destination but also willing to discuss the speedbumps on the way. From a brand perspective, businesses must stop seeking customer approval and instead ask permission to make mistakes.

Embracing sustainability, transparency, and honesty will be critical for businesses looking to attract, engage and retain marketing talent moving forward.

Prioritising diversity & inclusion

It’s not just sustainability that businesses need to focus on to attract the best talent, however. When it comes to purpose, diversity, equity and inclusion tend to go hand in hand, and this year’s Census shows minimal progression within the creative industries. In some cases, there has even been regression.

Ethnic representation has remained at the same level as last year, with Asian, Black, Mixed, Arabic or Other making up 15.6% of the creative industries workforce. This is still short of the UK national average of 18.3%, and considerably short of London’s 39.9% ethnic makeup. In addition, representation within senior and C-suite roles is also low, where only 11% of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic workers are in roles above £70,000+.

Meanwhile, the pay gap between men and women has widened over the last 12 months, with women earning on average £9,618 less than men in permanent roles – an increase of £371 per annum.

Time and again, it’s been shown that diverse workforces drive better business results. In 2017, a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study found diverse teams produce 19% more revenue. More recently, research by McKinsey & Company revealed that the most diverse companies outperform on profitability by 36%.

So it’s imperative that businesses work to ensure that their culture and teams are inclusive to people from all different backgrounds, demonstrating their commitment towards helping improve equity in society more broadly and their commitment towards the career progression of diverse talent.

Top talent is always crucial in driving business growth. Companies need the brightest and the best as part of a diverse and committed workforce. What’s clear is that in this job market, attracting and retaining talent means investing hard behind purpose. Otherwise, businesses risk being left behind.