Rise of the climate quitters: 1 in 5 UK workers would turn down a job if a company’s ESG credentials were found to be poor

New data from KPMG will raise concerns for ESG laggards, with survey results showing that almost half of UK workers want their employers to demonstrate environmental and social commitments.
February 8, 2023

Climate quitting on the rise

A new survey of 6,000 UK adults exploring how ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) factors are impacting employment has been published. The research by KPMG asked office workers, students, apprentices, and those who have left higher education in the past six months questions related to their attitudes towards work.

KPMGs findings suggest that ESG factors are influencing employment decisions for almost half of the UK workforce, with 46% saying they want the company they work for to demonstrate a commitment to ESG[i]. In addition, almost two-thirds (64%) of office workers admit that there are certain industries they refuse to work in for ethical reasons; however, a clear commitment to ESG would change the minds of 37%. In a sign that there is a prevalent trend for ‘climate quitting’ –the act of seeking out more environmentally friendly roles- one in five (20%) of survey respondents said that they had turned down a job offer when the company’s ESG commitments were not in line with their values.

This aligns with a previous study carried out last year by Make My Money Matter (MMMM) in collaboration with pension provider Scottish Widows. This research found that the UK workforce as a whole is highly engaged with the topic of climate change: eight out of ten employees (83%) view it as an important issue, whilst just over a third (34%) believe it is the most critical issue affecting society today[ii].

With younger workers more climate conscious, ESG laggards risk losing out on new talent

KPMGs research found that climate quitting was more prevalent amongst younger workers, with more than half (55%) of those aged between 25 and 34 saying that they value ESG commitments from their employer. This was followed closely by the 18-24-year-old group (51%) and 35-44-year-olds (48%). Whilst overall, one in five said they had turned down a job because the company’s ESG credentials were not in line with their values, this figure was one in three for the 18-24-year-old group, showing how critical ESG will be in attracting new, younger, talent.

Referencing the Paris agreement, which aims to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C, John McCalla-Leacy, Head of ESG at KPMG in the UK, said: “It is the younger generations that will see the greater impacts if we fail to reach this target, so it is unsurprising that this, and other interrelated ESG considerations, are front of mind for many when choosing who they will work for.” He added: “For businesses the direction of travel is clear. By 2025, 75 per cent of the working population will be millennials, meaning they will need to have credible plans to address ESG if they want to continue to attract and retain this growing pool of talent.”[iii]

ZCA previously analysed Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012 and today aged between 11-26 years old) and their attitudes to the workplace, revealing how 77% of this eco-aware group expects their employers’ values to align with their own[iv]. Further, a recent Bupa survey of 18–22-year-olds found that 64% think it’s important that where they work is climate-conscious, and 59% also said that this would make them more likely to stay in a job[v].

Recruitment critical, given the looming green skills shortage

As the world transitions towards more environmentally sympathetic processes and in many cases, strives for net zero, new skills and expertise are required. It has been widely reported that there are shortages in so-called ‘green skills’. LinkedIn’s recent Global Green Skills Report 2022 demonstrates a worldwide trend towards green jobs, with an 8% increase in job postings requiring green skills, but this growth is not matched by an increase in available talent, which has seen only a 6% rise.[vi] However, this global view may be masking significant growth in particular markets. For example, in PWCs Green Jobs Barometer, data from 2021 to 2022 shows a 118% increase in green job creation[vii]. The research has also found that green jobs are growing around four times the rate of the overall UK employment market, with 336,000 green jobs advertised last year- or 2.2% of total listings.

“Our economy, and our ambitions for net zero, rely on a greener workforce that can adapt to the changing demands of a changing planet – from the transition away from fossil fuels to the technology that will accelerate the pace at which we move towards net zero.” - Lynne Baber, Head of Sustainability, PwC UK[viii]

Source: PWC[ix]

A Green Alliance report from earlier in 2022 outlined that businesses will not be able to rely upon a new wave of green-skilled individuals entering the job market as they point out that 80% of the predicted workforce of 2030 are in work today; this means that upskilling or reskilling must become key tools for organisations[x]. In a report released by thinktank Onward last July, they estimated that up to 3.2 million workers in the UK are currently in jobs which are in need of upskilling for the net zero transition[xi]. Further, they note that in some industries, such as construction, as many as one-third (30%) of employees require upskilling. However, the research also found that net zero jobs are attractive: “workers in net zero industries tend to earn more than the national average. The median gross income of a full-time employee in one of these industries is £37,190. This is around 18% higher than the national average for a full-time employee, which is £31,461.”[xii]


[i] Climate quitting - younger workers voting with their - KPMG United Kingdom

[ii] Green Pensions Report - 2022 (scottishwidows.co.uk)

[iii] Climate quitting - younger workers voting with their - KPMG United Kingdom

[iv] Gen-Z are coming for the workplace: 77% of this eco-aware group now expect their employers’ values to align with their own | Zero Carbon Academy

[v] Gen Z seek ethical workplaces as environ-mental health burden bites | Bupa.com


[vii] Green Jobs Barometer - PwC UK

[viii] Ibid

[ix] Ibid

[x] Green Alliance (2022, Jan. 11). Closing the UK’s green skills gap. [Online] Available: https://green-alliance.org.uk/publication/closing-the-uks-green-skills-gap/

[xi] Microsoft Word - SKILLS DRAFT.docx (ukonward.com)

[xii] Ibid

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Lauren Foye
Head of Reports

Lauren has extensive experience as an analyst and market researcher in the digital technology and travel sectors. She has a background in researching and forecasting emerging technologies, with a particular passion for the Videogames and eSports industries. She joined the Critical Information Group as Head of Reports and Market Research at GRC World Forums, and leads the content and data research team at the Zero Carbon Academy. “What drew me to the academy is the opportunity to add content and commentary around sustainability across a wealth of industries and sectors.”

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