- Almost two-thirds of respondents stated that they were more likely to apply to a job that committed to sustainable practices.
- Three out of five respondents said that they avoid employers they perceive as having a negative impact on the environment.
- 54% of respondents said that sustainability played a role in their motivation to work remotely.
As the largest, most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history, Gen Z is already driving significant societal change in cultural, political, and economic systems—proving that this generation is serious when it comes to paving a path for their future.
Enter climate change: a leading topic of concern for Gen Z, one that this cohort has been particularly tenacious about tackling. With limited time (less than 8 years) left on meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, many Gen Z have shifted their focus, and even lifestyle, to protect the environment.
The momentum around climate change has not ceased when it comes to the workplace. In addition to flexibility, job security, and equitable pay, Gen Z is also indicating an interest in a company’s sustainability practices, prompting the question:
Is climate change impacting how today’s students are pursuing job opportunities?
Handshake analyzed over 1.8 million full time job postings and surveyed 1.8k users to better understand how students are planning their coursework and career paths to prioritize sustainability in their career. We explore the key takeaways below:
According to data from the Handshake network, almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents stated that they were more likely to apply to a job that committed to sustainable practices. This could include a signed climate pledge, carbon offsets, or corporate sustainability initiatives.
Notably, three out of five respondents said that they avoid employers they perceive as having a negative impact on the environment. This indicates a strong demand from today’s students for prospective employers to clearly communicate their corporate social responsibilities.
And when it comes to working remotely, Gen Z views the benefits of remote work going beyond flexibility, work-life balance, and even productivity. WFH also helps to reduce carbon emissions from work commutes. 54% of respondents said that sustainability played a role in their motivation to work remotely.
Today’s students are incorporating studies in environmental science and sustainability into their career search. While their major may not specifically be “environmental sciences,” many are pursuing bachelor's degrees in complementary spaces that enable them to pursue a career in climate.
In fact, “green majors”—defined as a list of identified majors that prepare students for a climate career–make up 13% of all majors on Handshake based on the number of activated student accounts. Examples of such majors include Agriculture & Biological Engineering, Biology, Conservation, Chemistry, Environmental Management & Sciences, and more.
If not pursuing a “green major,” many job seekers on Handshake have opted to take environmental science-related courses, including statistics, organic chemistry, calculus, environmental economics, and more.
In exploring job descriptions posted by employers on the platform, terms like “sustainability,” “climate pact,” and “climate corporate responsibility” are once again making an appearance.
Post-covid, there was a dip in active jobs mentioning environmental practice keywords. Since September 2021, these mentions have generally seemed to recover. In fact, since summer of 2020, there’s been an over 2x increase in the number of mentions of those keywords in job descriptions. This could suggest two things: An increase in jobs that’s related to sustainability, and a potential increase in employers promoting climate pledges and organizational commitments as part of their company value description.
In the last decade, more and more companies have started to increase efforts to help reduce carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Over 300 companies have signed the Climate Pledge, an initiative co-founded in 2019 by Amazon and Global Optimism which calls on signatories to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. And companies on Handshake, including PepsiCo, Chevron, McDonald's, Walmart, and more, have rolled out their own initiatives to help use resources more efficiently, reduce greenhouse emissions, restore ecosystems, reduce deforestation, and more.
Closing + Methodology
- What this means for students: There are ample opportunities for students wishing to incorporate their values around climate action into their future career.
- Regardless of where you choose to focus your area of study, as long as you have applicable coursework, there are options to leverage your learnings and pursue “green jobs” opportunities. For those interested in “green” opportunities within the tech space, remember that there are similar opportunities within government organizations, utility companies, construction companies, and even research and marketing firms. Many of these opportunities require similar skillsets.
- For students and new grads who may not be pursuing a career in climate action, but still care deeply about protecting the environment, a great way to align your values with a prospective company is to review their social responsibilities page. This page typically outlines commitments to sustainable practices, in addition to their company values, DEI&B statements, mental health programs, and more.
- What this means for employers: Climate change is not only top of mind for current college students and new grads looking to incorporate sustainable practices into their everyday lives, it’s become part of Gen Z’s values when it comes to evaluating career opportunities overall. This provides a great opportunity for employers to showcase the progress they’ve made on sustainability or climate pacts in their job descriptions, on their websites, and across social media.