Employers are being urged to shore up their commitments to meeting sustainability and net zero targets or risk an exodus amongst younger workers.

Nearly half (48%) of Gen Z workers agree they would consider leaving a job that did not walk the talk in its promises on sustainability.

This is according to the latest Bupa Wellbeing Index, a landmark survey that uncovers the state of the nation’s health and wellbeing.

The research found that despite worries around inflation and the cost of living, two-fifths of all workers (42%) say they would accept a job on lower pay to work for a more ethical or environmentally active organisation. This rose to 66 percent amongst the Gen Z demographic.

On average, workers are willing to take a significant 19 percent reduction in pay, rising to 23 percent among Gen Z to work for a company who is taking action against climate change.

What about sustainability and mental health?

There is also increasing evidence of the impact of environmental issues on mental health.

Also, 42 percent of workers said a lack of action on social or environmental issues by their employer has a negative effect on their mental health, up from 33 percent in 2021.

As a result, workers want more of a say and to see tangible action on sustainability and net zero targets. Just over one in five (21%) workers say it is not enough for senior leaders to put out promises on sustainability without getting input from the wider workforce – rising to 29 percent among Gen Z.

Over half of Gen Z workers (56%) say putting forward sustainable and eco-friendly initiatives to leadership, and seeing these come to fruition, would make them more motivated at work, in turn driving productivity, loyalty and talent retention. And they favour working with eco-friendly start-ups and innovators that move the needle, rather than sticking with set practices.

Rachel Murray, Head of Employee Health and Wellbeing at Bupa Global & UK says:

“For younger workers, it’s essential that their employer is setting and meeting ambitious sustainability goals that they can see is making tangible change. Many Gen Z workers in particular feel their generation is responsible for protecting the environment – a pressure that can take its toll on wellbeing and mental health in the workplace when they see practices that go against good sustainability action.

“Giving people more of a direct say in what ESG initiatives they want to see is likely to become more widespread within UK businesses, allowing the workforce to feel more invested in both business performance and creating a better world.”

James O’Reilly, Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer for Bupa Global & UK said: 

“This research shows that an increasing proportion of the UK workforce is giving businesses a mandate: we must do more to reach our sustainability targets. At Bupa, we are committed to our ESG initiatives and have seen first-hand the value of getting our people involved in our sustainability agenda.

“Over the last three years, our global eco-Disruptive programme has given our people the opportunity to engage with eco start-ups to drive healthcare innovation into our business and help meet our sustainability and net zero targets. For example, our Cromwell Hospital has introduced two eco start-up concepts over the last two years, a device from SageTech Medical that recycles waste anaesthetic gases and Upcycled Medical’s scrubs made of recycled plastic. This has had a positive impact on the hospital as well as created pride in the team of the steps they’ve taken to help make a difference to the planet.

“We know many companies have fast approaching sustainability and net zero targets and now is the time to act. Our advice is to listen to your people and take them on the journey with you to find your sustainable solutions. In turn, this will drive business engagement, performance, talent attraction and retention, particularly within the increasingly important Gen Z workforce.”





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.