Want to Find — and Keep — More Employees in 2024? Focus on Sustainability. Here's How. Finding and retaining employees remains a key concern for most small businesses. Joining sustainable organizations is one (surprising) way you can more easily attract and keep workers.

By Nellie Akalp

Key Takeaways

  • A significant percentage of Gen Z and millennials are altering career paths due to environmental concerns, influencing companies' sustainability practices.
  • Small businesses' integration with sustainable organizations can attract like-minded employees, partners and consumers, bolstering brand reputation and loyalty.
  • Being a part of sustainable organizations offers networking, educational opportunities, certification options and a collective advocacy voice, enriching businesses with sustainable credibility.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Environmental consciousness is on the rise in America, particularly with millennials and members of Generation Z. Many of us are aware that consumers of these generations embrace environmental concerns and sustainability and expect the companies they do business with to do the same.

Increasingly, this concern also impacts their career choices and the businesses they want to work for. In 2024, the call for small businesses to embrace sustainability will become more urgent and essential.

Deloitte's Gen Z and Millennial Survey reveals that climate change is a major concern for both generations. The report shows that 42% of Generation Z and 39% of millennials have already changed or plan to change jobs or industries due to climate concerns. And half of Generation Z and 46% of millennials are "pushing" their employers to drive change on environmental issues.

So, to attract and retain Gen Z and millennial employees, you should examine your environmental practices to ensure they align with these workers. One way to do this is by aligning with sustainable organizations. Here's how you can identify and join such organizations — and the many benefits of doing so.

Related: How to Build a Socially Responsible Employer Brand (and How It Can Help You Tackle Attrition)

Identifying sustainable organizations

First, search for organizations that align with your business values and sustainability goals. Look for industry-specific associations, chambers of commerce or local groups focusing on sustainable practices.

Several resources are available to help you find and connect with sustainable organizations. Some particularly valuable ones include the Encyclopedia of Associations, SustainableConnections.org and the Green Business Network at Green America, where you can find green businesses to connect with at the National Green Pages.

Joining sustainable organizations

Once you've identified potential organizations, explore their membership criteria and application process. Be prepared to show your commitment to sustainability when you apply.

Of course, joining a sustainable organization is not just about having a membership card. To be effective, you must actively engage in the community and participate in events, whether online or in person. This can strengthen your connection with like-minded businesses, help you find potential partners and enhance your knowledge and understanding of sustainable practices.

Getting certified as a sustainable organization

If you're interested, you can take the next step and get certified. Many organizations offer certifications and designations for businesses committed to sustainability. A few to consider:

  • You can get certified as a B Corp. Certification as a B (Benefit) Corp is done by a third party that evaluates a business to ensure it is "meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials."
  • Depending on the type of business you run, you can get certified as, or source products from, a certified Fair Trade organization. One of the missions of Fair Trade USA is to build "an innovative model of responsible business, conscious consumerism and shared value to…enable sustainable development for farmers, workers, their families and communities around the world."
  • The Green Business Bureau (GBB) offers an online self-assessment tool that validates your current greening efforts and credits your business for completed initiatives. If you qualify, you can earn the GBB Member Seal. Then, if you qualify for higher levels, your results can be "verified to update your seal to the silver, gold or platinum levels."

These designations are a clear signal to consumers, partners and employees that you are committed to sustainable business practices.

Related: How Sustainability is Revolutionizing Branding and Corporate Identity

Benefits of joining sustainable organizations

There are numerous benefits to joining sustainable organizations. One of the primary benefits is the opportunity to connect with other small businesses so you can share ideas, best practices and resources.

Being a member of sustainable organizations underscores your commitment to the cause, making it easier for other businesses, consumers and potential employees seeking sustainable companies to find you and trust your sustainability claims. A commitment to sustainability can enhance your brand image and reputation, increasing customer loyalty.

Other advantages of joining a sustainable organization include:

  • Educational opportunities: Many organizations offer educational resources, workshops and training sessions where you can learn more about sustainability practices.
  • Collaborative marketing opportunities: Joint campaigns, promotions or events can broaden your reach, introducing your small business to new audiences and potential workers committed to sustainability.
  • Access to funding: Today, many investors and financial institutions place greater importance on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors when making investment decisions. Small businesses with strong sustainability practices may find it easier to secure funding or attract investors who prioritize responsible business conduct.
  • Gain influence: By joining sustainable organizations, your business gains a collective voice in advocating for sustainable policies and practices. This advocacy can contribute to positive change at local, regional or even national levels, raise your company's profile and cement your reputation, helping make you a company people want to work for.

Related: Are You an Ethical Entrepreneur? Here's How Business Leaders Can Embrace Social and Environmental Responsibilities

Toward a better future

The start of a New Year is the perfect time to think about how we can all make a difference in our local, national and global communities. At CorpNet, we're already evaluating how we can make an impact because I believe sustainability is not just a trend but a strategic imperative for small businesses in 2024. It aligns with market demands, regulatory requirements and long-term business success, making it a vital aspect of responsible and forward-thinking entrepreneurship.

Nellie Akalp

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of CorpNet.com

Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur and mother of four. She is the CEO of CorpNet.com, the smartest way to start a business, register for payroll taxes and maintain business compliance across the United States. 

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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