The ageing of the workforce, particularly in Europe, is a challenge today for companies like Stora Enso as many older employees approach retirement. Can a company’s ambitious sustainability work be an asset in recruiting and motivating top talents?
“Professionals with higher education are increasingly looking for meaningful jobs,” says Miikka Huhta, Employer Branding Advisor at Universum, an international research company that annually conducts a global employer branding survey among students and highly educated professionals.
According to Universum’s latest study, already 40% of Finnish and 32% of Swedish respondents today aim in the long term to find jobs where they can feel their work is dedicated to a good cause or serves a greater good.
“Millennials already take it for granted that the job market cannot guarantee them stability. Instead, getting a job that corresponds with your personal values has become more important both for students and for people already in employment,” explains Huhta.
A global company as an alternative to NGO work
Hanna Westerberg, 27, joined Stora Enso’s GROW Global Trainee Programme for recent graduates after finishing her studies in human resources and human rights at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. Since 2015 she has been working as a Human Resources Specialist at the company’s Biomaterials Innovation Centre in Stockholm.
“For me it’s always been important to feel I can contribute to a good purpose in my work,” Westerberg says. “For this reason, I was initially planning to work for NGOs after finishing my human rights studies, but I’ve realised that working for a company with sustainable business and good values also enables you to influence and change things.”
One of the factors encouraging Westerberg to apply for a job at Stora Enso was the sustainability module of the GROW trainee programme, which assigned trainees to map Stora Enso’s community investment activities globally. During her traineeship Westerberg also got an opportunity to work in Laos, where Stora Enso’s tree plantations are integrated with local food production.
“I’ve been happy to see the company showing so much ambition in its social responsibility agenda, especially in human rights, along with environmental responsibility,” she adds.
Walking the talk
Having a meaningful job does not always mean prioritising sustainability over other benefits, however. In Universum’s global survey only about 20% of respondents mentioned corporate responsibility among the three most important factors they consider when evaluating potential employers. The factors most commonly mentioned among both students and working respondents included a fair salary and varied tasks.
“On the other hand, our study also shows that companies with unsustainable activities are not seen as such desirable employers as their peers,” adds Huhta.
Huhta feels that to make sustainability into more of a recruitment asset companies must showcase how they walk the talk – how sustainability is integrated into their core business decisions, what sustainability means in practice for their employees, and how it is reflected in their leadership.
Hanna Westerberg feels inspired in her everyday work by Stora Enso’s clear leadership goals and exciting business opportunities through which fossil-based materials can be replaced with renewable materials.
“It’s very motivating to contribute to the work of a company with sustainability so high on its agenda. Of course there are also areas to improve. One thing is that we could better realise our potential by working more cross-functionally,” says Westerberg.
“For me, business success and sustainability are integrated. If sustainability was only talk, I would definitely look for other opportunities outside the company. Stora Enso is now on an exciting journey with renewable materials and I’m very proud to be part of it.”