Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Business Student Perceptions of Environmental Sustainability: Examining the Job Search Implications

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Business Student Perceptions of Environmental Sustainability: Examining the Job Search Implications

Article excerpt

An ongoing question of great importance to employers is how to recruit and retain the best college graduates. Engaging in environmentally sustainable practices that match the values held by students who will soon be graduating has recently been indicated as one way to interest these potential employees (Kolodinsky et al., 2010; Montgomery and Ramus, 2011; Stika, 2010). Many employees in the millennial generation (born after 1980) have expectations that their employers will participate in "green" activities like recycling, use of energy-saving devices, and shared office equipment (Puybaraud, 2010). Surveys conducted through online job posting sites indicate that up to 92% of young job seekers want to work for an environmentally friendly company (Odell, 2007). It is known that millennial expect certain "green" practices, yet available research has not resolved what the actual relationship is between an organization's reputation for environmental sustainability and the success of its recruiting efforts. This raises the questions of whether there is a relationship between perceptions of environmentally friendly business practices and the job search attitudes and intentions of students entering the workforce and under what circumstances this relationship might occur.

The current investigation will explore the connection between recruiting and environmentally sustainable practices by examining the extent to which environmentally sustainable perspectives of business students are related to their job search attitudes. Specifically, the following questions will be explored: (1) Do students who perceive all aspects of environmentally sustainable practices as important place greater emphasis on a potential employer's environmentally sustainable efforts? (2) Are students who perceive care for the environment as an urgent priority more likely to be attracted to, and to seek employment with, a sustainable organization? (3) Do students who place responsibility for the environment with businesses look more closely at organizations' environmental reputations when evaluating the attractiveness of job openings and their likelihood to pursue these positions?


Defining Environmental Sustainability

Environmental sustainability is identified as one of the three pillars or components of the Triple Bottom Line theory of sustainability. Elkington (1998) defined the lull cost of doing business as including costs incurred in the areas of social, financial, and environmental practice. The phrase often associated with his concept is "people, planet, and profit" (Elkington, 1998). While social and financial sustainability are very important pillars of the Triple Bottom Line, this paper focuses specifically on environmental sustainability and its role in student perceptions during their job search.

Environmental sustainability remains elusive in its definition. There are many different working definitions, yet no single accepted definition (Boston Consulting Group, 2009). It has been suggested that because environmental sustainability is based on values, and because those values change over time, there cannot be one distinct measure of environmental sustainability (Whitford and Wong, 2009). While this study does not attempt to enter the debate on definitions, it does ask the subjects to identify how important they perceive multiple facets of environmentally sustainable practices to be and does attempt to understand the extent to which students preparing to enter the workforce believe they will use environmental sustainability as a job search criterion.

The Importance of Environmental Sustainability

Perspectives on environmental sustainability differ not only by definition, but also by the overall importance placed on environmental sustainability. Contemporary thought on the role of sustainability in business is to do more than avoid harming the environment, by working to also protect and improve the environment (Turker, 2009). …

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