On World Environment Day (June 5) — and every day — research shows why it’s vital for employers large and small to consider the impact of climate change on their employees, businesses and the planet. 

And to take action to combat climate change. 

Now. 

From a talent attraction/retention and business standpoint, there are multiple compelling reasons for employers to take climate action. Climate change can adversely affect your workers’ safety, health and wellbeing, research shows, which includes increased hazards such as heat and respiratory illnesses. On the other hand, in a 2022 study, 69% of companies with climate initiatives reported capturing higher financial value than expected. And another study reports that one in four employees would quit if their employers had a poor record on sustainability.  

From the perspective of our planet’s health, of course, the stakes of not taking action are extremely far-reaching. In March, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued an alarming report stating unequivocally that humans are causing global heating, which “has led to more frequent and hazardous weather events that have caused increasing destruction to people and the planet.” 

Most importantly, the report states that the world needs to cut emissions by 60% by 2035 — a mere 12 years from now — to avoid climate consequences that will make parts of the world uninhabitable. 

The good news is that there are steps employers can take to help the environment. To find out more, we talked to Indeed’s Head of Environmental Sustainability, Valeria Orozco.

Valeria Orozco, Head of Environment Sustainability at Indeed

What’s the importance of World Environment Day?

World Environment Day is a global event led by the U.N. Like an international version of Earth Day in the United States, it's meant to raise awareness of environmental issues so that companies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can share related thoughts and initiatives.

Why is it important to take action on sustainability, especially now?

I hate to be an alarmist. But there’s reason to be alarmed. 

The effects of climate change are becoming more severe. The science tells us we’re changing the earth's atmosphere at a pace we potentially won't be able to reverse, and it has impacts on human health that also impact corporations, our talent and our operations. 

Environmental sustainability has become table stakes. There has been a lot of corporate action in the last 20 years, and having a strategy for adapting to climate change is becoming an investor topic. As far as employees, more and more, they want to work for a purpose-driven company, and this is one of the issues that is frequently cited as very important.

What is Indeed doing to help?

I was the first environmental sustainability lead that Indeed hired. That's not to say there weren't actions before I joined, but when I did, the big change was setting and taking action toward our public-facing Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals. 

Regarding the environment, we have two goals. One is our annual commitment to renew carbon neutrality, which we have achieved since 2021. That involves purchasing offsets equivalent to our greenhouse gas emissions. 

And it’s the first step toward our broader, more ambitious goal: to be net zero by 2030, which means eliminating or reducing our emissions to zero where possible. We’re doing that by decreasing our in-office, work-from-home, travel-related and vendor emissions. In each of those impact areas, we've started moving to renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar where we can, increasing energy efficiency and setting guidelines to change how we do business. 

We’re also working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for our customers through the use of our products and services. We have a pilot right now around Indeed Interview, our virtual interview platform that seeks to connect employers with job seekers in a way that eliminates physical travel, and we've quantified the greenhouse gas emissions savings from those. That represents a savings job seekers can feel proud of in using this product, and employers can as well. And of course, it has an impact on the planet. 

Indeed is a purpose-driven company, which means having targets we meet as well as tying this to our products, revenue sources and the way we build our brand. It also means embedding sustainability into our business practices, looking at how we can make money while offering products that either reduce environmental impact or the impact of those who use them. However, there's a caution in being accused of greenwashing. That’s when a company makes a claim that something is helping the environment but, really, it can be seen as a public relations stunt or short-term discussion versus an action that’s baked into how you do business. 

It’s really important that you have a data-driven approach, back up claims and share the journey transparently so that as you're trying new things as a company, the story is understandable to the public, investors and employees.

Image is of a woman making lists with sticky notes on an office wall. The sun is shining through a glass wall behind her and casting a harsh shadow. She is white with dark brown hair that is up in a messy bun. She is wearing a light great sweater tucked into dark jeans. In the foreground, blurry, there are models of wind turbines.

Indeed has an employee-led program called iGreen that’s focused on environmental sustainability. What advice do you have for employers who want to start a similar program? 

Probably one of the biggest things is to have those who are part of such a program have their managers’ approval to be able to focus on this. Every single person at Indeed makes decisions every day that have an environmental impact through things like vendor spend, how they get to the office and by what method and how frequently they travel. It's important to have top-down sponsorship of a program such as iGreen.

But it has to be tied to a business goal. If it's going to be sponsored by the company, it needs to have a public-facing impact, such as talking to vendors about environmental sustainability versus people reducing their own personal impact at home.

As a company moves toward being more purpose-driven on sustainability, what challenges might it run into and how can the company mitigate them?

There are lots of challenges, as there always are with ambitious goals. That’s why it's important to get cross-functional team buy-in. And you do that through data, by having shared goals and making sure that the work that you’re asking others to do is integrated into their day-to-day. 

Here at Indeed, we’ve also got teams focused on helping job seekers facing barriers get hired and achieving our goals around workforce representation. There's a real backlash against some of these efforts because people believe that they aren’t good for business. But that’s really short-sighted. These factors, in my experience, strengthen a business for lots of reasons: innovation, decreased environmental impact, cost savings and brand and reputation enhancement among them. 

Do you have advice on how companies should set their own sustainability goals?

This is very basic, but companies should not set goals for every single environmental issue. I give this example: A company like Indeed is a tech company that doesn't make physical products or have manufacturing operations. Most of our impact is through our vendors.

Palm oil, a key ingredient in products like cosmetics and snacks, is a hot topic, but it's not relevant to a company like Indeed. It doesn't make any sense for us to focus on palm oil, even though it can be very detrimental to animal and wildlife habitats, because we don't have any purchasing power or any influence in that commodity.

I take that as a parallel for companies to first look at environmental impacts on which they do have a positive or negative influence. For Indeed, it's very much about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. 

So every company needs to look at where it spends the most money. Does it have operations in certain areas that have certain sensitivities? That's where you start versus trying to look at the whole universe of environmental impacts. Concentrate on where you have the biggest impact. And no matter how hard or ambiguous things can be, have the courage to start small or with imperfect data because it gets you going in the right direction.

What is the business case for being a purpose-driven company? 

When you’re more efficient and thinking about energy, efficiency or water, or whatever you're looking at using less of, that does have a cost-savings piece, so that’s where most companies start. 

The next one is around risk mitigation with emerging regulations throughout the world: in the E.U., Japan, and here in the U.S. If you start to think about these efficiencies before the regulations take effect, you'll be well prepared to not only respond to those regulations; you’ll have a great story in terms of what you're actually doing to change those things.

Another business case for being a purpose-driven company is that it can enhance your brand and reputation externally with your customers and internally with your own employees. And finally, it’s about revenue and looking at how this ties into your products or services. 

You mentioned greenwashing. How can a company avoid it?

Bring transparency by sharing data to support your claims and make that data easily accessible to those that want to read it. Where possible, get a third party to verify your claims. Then, if you discover an error or something that was not the intention of your claim, there should be an immediate statement addressing what you learned as a corporation and how things will be different.