Monday, December 11, 2023

Forget Quiet Quitting, Nearly Half of High-Income Earners Might Be ‘Climate Quitters’


Quiet quitting’s eco cousin, “climate quitting”, is seeing high-income earners prioritize corporate sustainability as a motive for leaving their current positions.

A study published by Deloitte last month revealed that a substantial number of workers — nearly 46 percent of high-income earners across 20 countries — said they have considered leaving their current employment for companies that prioritize sustainability.

The phenomenon, dubbed “climate quitting” by Deloitte, could be even higher as the research found 77 percent of low-income employees — those not in a financial position to quit compared with the higher-income earners — said that their employers are not doing enough in terms of sustainability. But even given their limited financial means, nearly 20 percent of lower- and middle-income earners said they have considered switching jobs for an opportunity to work with a more sustainable company.

“Our research highlights the troubling disconnect between concern and action on climate change for individuals, and the root causes of this gap,” Leon Pieters, Global Consumer Industry leader, Deloitte Global, said in a statement. “Most people agree climate change is a critical issue and want to take steps to address it, but too many are unable to do so amid rising costs, recession fears, geopolitical tensions, the long-term ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, and more.”

Is your home office as sustainable as it could be?
Photo Courtesy Klara Kulikova

Deloitte’s reporting also found just about ten percent of lower- and middle-income individuals always or whenever possible power their home with renewable electricity compared to nearly 25 percent of higher-income respondents. The numbers are similar when it comes to supporting environmental organizations, with 24 percent of higher-income earners and ten percent of lower- and middle-income earners contributing. 

“This is indicative of a broader, troubling trend regarding engagement, as many who see themselves as lower income likely cannot afford to spend time contacting public officials or participating in public demonstrations demanding climate action,” says Pieters. According to the report, 65 percent of lower-income individuals have never attended a climate demonstration while 25 percent have never contacted a public official about climate issues.

Despite their interest in sustainability and means to make changes, middle- and higher-income earners were less likely to reduce certain behaviors linked to the climate crisis such as avoiding leisure flights or opting for public transport, reducing meat consumption, and reducing the number of package deliveries.

Kathy Alsegaf, Deloitte Global Chief Sustainability Officer, told HR Brew that there’s significant value in educating and involving employees in sustainability initiatives; when employees speak up about sustainability, it often leads to increased efforts by the employer.

deloitte $1 billion investment
Photo courtesy Harry Cunningham

Last year, Deloitte introduced a virtual learning program on sustainability. It is integrated into the orientation program for new employees as well. So far, Alsegaf noted that 385,000 out of more than 400,000 global employees have taken the training. Additionally, Deloitte has been organizing a Global Sustainability and Climate Learning week, which features both live and on-demand sessions designed to inspire employees to adopt greener habits.

“We tell our story through our global impact report where we report against our positions and where we are on the journey,” Alsegaf said. The company’s sustainability messaging is also weaved into employee websites and social media. “You have to keep telling the story and finding what’s going to resonate with your audience,” she said.

Jennifer Steinmann, Global Sustainability & Climate practice leader, Deloitte Global, says it is “essential” for global leaders to understand how and why people are taking climate action personally, at work, and in their communities, “and why some are not able to take action to the extent they would like,” she said. 

“Ultimately, the aggregated impact of individual decisions to live a more sustainable life does influence the efforts of companies and governments and can accelerate the broader, systemic action required to meet the ambition of the global emissions reduction goals set forth in the Paris Agreement.” 

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