Young people want employers to put sustainability first

17 November 2023


When choosing a new job, young people increasingly pay attention to the climate impact of the company. Sustainable terms of employment such as a ‘sustainable pension’ make an employer more attractive. ‘Now that I know that it is possible, I don’t want it any other way.’

Project engineer Roberto de la Garca Cuavas (35) is deeply committed to the climate, but started his career in the oil industry. ‘The work was very interesting from a technical point of view, and besides, the salary was good,’ he says. ‘All the same, within a couple of years I came to the conclusion that I no longer wanted to work in this sector. There is just no way to justify the negative consequences for the climate. It must and can be done differently.’

Sustainable energy

This is why, almost six years ago, he decided to start working on sustainable energy. He followed a master’s degree programme Sustainable Energy Technology at Delft University of Technology, specialising in wind energy and electrical energy systems. Then he started working for a startup: Delft Offshore Turbine (DOT). Currently, he has been working there for almost six years. He is enthusiastic about his employer, because DOT is trying to contribute to a better world in all kinds of ways. For example, employees can opt for a sustainable pension. ‘I have not regretted my career switch for a single moment,’ the project engineer says. ‘Not only do I want to make money in the energy sector, but I also want to help build a better future. This is why I would much rather deploy my knowledge and skills for the development of sustainable alternatives.’

Climate impact important factor when choosing a job

De la Garca Cuavas is by no means the only one for whom sustainability plays a part in his career choice. For 69% of the Dutch people aged between 20 and 29, the climate impact of future employers is an important factor when looking for a job. This emerges from the Climate survey 2022-2023 of the European Investment Bank (EIB). For 13%, the climate impact of the company is even a top priority. And not only young people feel that sustainability is important when choosing a job: the same survey shows that more than half of all Dutch working people (55%) want employers to put the climate first. This majority can be found across the entire political spectrum and all income levels.

Roberto de la Garza Cuevas

Green terms of employment on the rise

Employers can prioritise sustainability in various ways. More and more organisations, for example, offer green terms of employment, employers’ association AWVN writes. Examples are electric lease cars, interest-free loans for insulation of the employee’s house, or a higher travel allowance for employees who come to work by bicycle.

Before he started working for DOT, De la Garca Cuavas had no idea that a sustainable pension was possible. ‘Actually, I didn’t give much thought to pensions yet,’ he says. ‘Now that I know that an employer can offer a sustainable pension, I don’t want it any other way.’ Climate-friendly investments are terribly important. I will surely pay attention to that aspect if I change jobs.’

Socially responsible investments

Already in 2022, research carried out by online pension provider BeFrank showed that a large majority (62%) of the working people consider it important that their pension capital is invested in socially responsible investments. ‘A sustainable future is very important to us, so we adjust our investments to that,’ BeFrank director Jan Hein Rhebergen said. ‘Because pensions involve great sums of money, the impact is great as well.’

At BeFrank, employers and participants can choose from three forms of investment: passive, active and sustainable. The pension contributions of participants in BeFrank’s Sustainable Lifecycle are only invested in companies that have demonstrated their impact on the world.

Climate-friendly choices

‘Sustainable options are very important to me and my colleagues,’ De la Garca Cuavas says. ‘A few years ago, I had no idea of all the possibilities, but I know by now that you can make a climate-friendly choice in every area. Apart from pensions, think of the choice of your bank, for example.’

He feels that it is the duty of both the government and the business sector to aim for sustainability. ‘I and many of my friends are aware that we have to get to work to save the climate. If we carry on the way we do now, there will be nothing left for the next generation. But we can’t do it alone,’ he says. ‘Businesses should commit themselves to the climate and offer sustainable choices. And it is up to the government to hold them to account. Only when we work together, we can make a real impact.’

This article appeared on on 13 November.