June 19, 2023
By Semyon Sokolov.
Against the current intensification of issues such as global warming and rising costs of living, students and graduates from top universities in the UK put ESG concerns at the top of their priority list when looking for employment. As a Cambridge Politics student told us, they ‘would probably not consider, or at least have serious doubts about, working for a company that did not seem to be taking some concern when it came to the environment and wider ESG questions.’ At the same time, young talent on the hunt for graduate jobs are often dismayed by what they see as a ‘lack of ESG commitment’ among employers. As an LSE Engineering finalist told us, although ‘divestment is something that is becoming much more common’, ‘most of the companies I look at could be doing more.’ When asked about ESG-conscious public figures they look up to, it was a recurrent tendency among students and graduates to respond that ‘in terms of businesses and companies, they are few and far between that are admirable voices on the environment.’
In that light, effective ESG compliance presents itself as a crucial competitive advantage that businesses can leverage to secure the best talent in the annual hunt for human resources. For most ESG-conscious students and graduates, it is ultimately the way that the achievement of ESG goals is reported to the public that makes the most difference when choosing their ESG-driven employer. Talented youth increasingly want to see companies actively taking what they perceive as ‘genuine action’ as opposed to ‘greenwashing’. An Oxford biomedical graduate pointed out that ‘a lot of places nowadays make a commitment to reach carbon neutrality by this date,’ for example, ‘by 2060.’ What many top university talent regard as a ‘real ESG commitment’ in their potential employers is seeing that ‘a company actually takes action right now, and has ESG plans or schemes that they are putting into place now, to reach that goal.’ As a Cambridge Land Economy graduate told us, for them, ‘taking tangible action towards carbon neutrality’ could be seen in businesses ‘implementing car-sharing and transport schemes, committing to not doing international flights for business meetings, or making their offices carbon neutral’.
As is manifest in the responses of students and graduates from top UK universities, companies stand to gain a lot by reporting their ESG commitments in a more transparent and accessible way. In that landscape, the provision of effective ESG compliance among businesses looking to employ the best talent emerges as a crucial factor that will define the future of graduate recruitment more and more.