Half of IEMA ‘generation S’ members stay away from unethical employers

11th February 2016

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Paul Fingleton

Initial results from IEMA's annual practitioner survey reveal that those entering the profession are becoming increasingly selective about the organisations they work for.

The poll closed on 15 January and 1,047 members responded. The first set of findings focus on responses from members with less than five years’ experience in an environment and sustainability role. This group of professionals has been dubbed ‘generation S’ because they are motivated by sustainability issues and the results suggest this stimulus is influencing their choice of sector and employer.

More than half of generation S respondents said they would refuse to work for employers that had a record of using slave labour, generating high levels of pollution, employing unsafe working conditions, poor environmental performance, questionable investments and unethical practices.

Tim Balcon, chief executive at IEMA, said: ‘We’re now looking at a new generation of savvy professionals. Generation S candidates are refusing to work for unethical employers. These career movers are typically extremely well qualified and employers who don’t have a sound reputation for good environment and sustainability performance are missing out on the pick of the crop, whether they are new graduates or career movers. Rather, generation S are looking for employers that offer opportunities to advance their career in a role that can make a positive difference to the planet, the economy and society.’

The early analysis of the survey results also shows that respondents with more than five years’ experience would advocate others joining the profession. More than a third (35%) said that, if they were advising generation S candidates about what to expect from an environment and sustainability career, they would say this is an area where practitioners can makes a difference and have a rewarding career.

More than a quarter (28%) of those polled said a career in the environment and sustainability offers a lot of variety. Some 59% reported that roles can be challenging, reflecting the diverse and fast-moving pace of the profession, as more businesses and entire industries are waking up to the scale and scope of environment and sustainable opportunities.

The full results from the practitioner survey, detailing the satisfaction levels, earnings, bonuses and work areas of IEMA members, will be published with the March issue of the environmentalist.

Generation S workers:

  • are typically in their mid-thirties, and men and women are equally interested in ethical employers;
  • have above average qualifications, with 45% having a Master’s degree or doctorate;
  • are looking for more than just a career and earning money, with the leading motivator for those seeking a new career in environment and sustainability being a desire to add more value than other jobs offer;
  • say they are concerned about the negative impact that some industries and organisations have on the environment;
  • are actively seeking a career that is primarily ‘ethical’ in nature; and
  • typically have a lifelong interest in environment and sustainability, and want a job that reflects their innate values.

Issues that would stop IEMA members working for an employer

56% unethical practices
53% poor environmental performance
48% unsafe working conditions
39% slave labour
37% high levels of pollution


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