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Being Smarter About Carbon Counting to Attract Talent (and Cut Costs!)


By Mark Blakemore, Chief Financial Officer at Compleat Software, the purchase-to-pay software house.

As the new academic year rolls around and a swathe of new qualified young people enter the workplace, HR/hiring analysts are keenly tracking the priorities of graduating students to help employers hone their recruitment messaging. 

High on the list is companies’ carbon consciousness. Fanned by the extreme heat of August, anxiety about climate change is acute, and employers’ efforts to tackle this are front of mind for first-time job seekers.

Even a year ago, a poll of UK students showed that they were more concerned about climate change than any other issue. In the survey of 1,000 students, 60% identified climate change and environmental issues as one of the top three most urgent world priorities, and 67% said that they had checked – or would check – companies’ climate change policies or reputation before applying to them for work.

Be the employer people aspire to work for

In the competition for new talent, especially when the soaring cost of doing business limits companies’ leverage with salaries, employers are having to think laterally about how to increase their appeal. 

Despite predicted market contraction, the numbers of graduate job vacancies this year are 20% higher than before the pandemic, according to Institute of Student Employers, suggesting that current applicants can afford to be choosy. 

One way for employers to differentiate their brand is to be much more transparent, and vocal, about their commitment to carbon reduction. Not just in verbalised pledges, but via specifics including hard numbers. 

There is significant scope to shine here – beyond reducing single-vehicle commuting, or being more economical with energy use. 

Take more conscious sourcing of everyday goods and services. Supply chains account for a huge proportion of a company’s carbon emissions, which accumulate as they pass from manufacturer to distributor and on to the customer. 

Fortunately, these connections are increasingly easy to track, proactively manage and report on in the age of digital procurement. From business sundries (stationery, computer equipment, catering supplies) to utilities, it’s now possible to trace and compare the carbon footprint of existing sources and compare these with alternatives – alongside other parameters such as price.

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It’s only once companies can see where they are going off track with their sourcing choices that they can start to make positive changes – improvements they can report on publicly. 

Major employers like Vodafone are already proactively doing this, both to shape their own supply chain decision-making and to drive consciousness and improvement among the companies they buy from. 

Vodafone announced plans to refine its vendor assessment criteria back in 2020, with a keener focus on suppliers’ commitments to the environment. It is now vetting supplier commitments to a science-based target for carbon emission reductions, for instance.

Crucially, Vodafone promised to provide tools and advice to help smaller suppliers meet their own targets, recognising that this new scrutiny means additional work for companies.

In a traditional, analogue world, measuring and reporting on carbon performance is no mean feat, but digital procurement has the potential to change that and it’s something our customers are coming to value enormously. 

Digital procurement paves the way for smarter, greener choices

Rather than requiring a team of people to manually calculate the carbon footprint of individual suppliers and purchases, our platform calculates all of this automatically. 

From business sundries to sourcing of everyday services and utilities, we can assess and provide details of a company’s current emissions intensity ratio based on parameters such as spend, distance, numbers of deliveries. We can then assess how that accrued carbon cost might be reduced through alternative purchasing choices. 

Better still, by capturing this information over time, we can help companies demonstrate their improving performance, so that they can confidently shout about it – both to other businesses they serve and to employees, current and future.

It’s likely that the estimates above about new recruits’ expectations are conservative. When BDO, one of the UK’s largest accountancy and business advisory firms, polled a group of Gen Z students about the factors influencing their future career decisions, 97% said that caring for the environment was a priority for them and 95% said that it was important that their professional career aligned with their interest in the environment and social responsibility.

For government bodies, regulators, investors, suppliers, customers and employees – particularly now, as Gen Z grows its representation within these stakeholder groups – visible action on climate change has never mattered more. 

It’s time, then, for organisations to ‘show and tell’ what they’re doing and the difference they’re making. 

We can help make that second nature.

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