How a recruitment firm found bottom-line benefits in green credentials

Going for verified green credentials has proven a positive differentiator in the recruitment market for Melbourne-based firm Dixon Appointments.

The firm’s director of recruitment services, Kathryn FitzGerald, says the commitment to sustainability appeals to employers looking for a trustworthy recruiter as well as job hunters who understand the importance of sustainability in the workplace.

The company has also seen a sharp uptick in roles advertised that require a level of environmental commitment or expertise, more than doubling between 2013-14 and 2015-16.

“Turns out that a for-profit recruitment agency with a conscience is not all that commonplace,” FitzGerald says.

The company is a generalist recruiter, with the majority of roles across professional, middle management and business support positions across the greater Melbourne region. The key industry sectors it recruits for include the public sector, education providers, professional and membership associations and medium- sized private sector businesses.

It has a 6 Star NABERS Tenancy rating for its office, is verified carbon neutral and holds ISO 14001:2004 Certification for Environmental Management.

FitzGerald says the motivation to pursue the goals is part of an overall drive for sustainable outcomes. This includes valuing long-term relationships, investing in long-term business opportunities over “quick wins” and committing to continuous improvement.

“As part of this approach we have always been environmentally and socially conscientious.”

It’s the directors’ belief that commercial business success can – and should – go hand in hand with broader societal improvements and positive community outcomes.

How it got there

The company started an environmental sustainability review in late 2009. The Carbon Reduction Institute was engaged to assess the impact of the company’s operations.

“This was an interesting project because even though we believed we were already an environmentally responsible business, we uncovered a number of areas where we could make minor changes, have little to no disruption to the way we were already working and saw significant reductions in our carbon footprint.”

The main “carbon culprits” identified were electricity and expenses such as travel.

To reduce those impacts measures were implemented such as using a lux meter, delamping in areas where additional light was not needed and switching off monitors and keyboards at the end of each day.

“Lots of little things added up,” FitzGerald says.

The business then decided it wanted to commit to carbon neutrality as a minimum.

She says the ISO 14001 certification came quickly after, as having undertaken the steps to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, the strategies could be managed and documented in a way that met most of the standard’s requirements, making it a “natural next step”.

The 6 Star NABERS Tenancy rating was a result of participating in the CitySwitch Green Office Program in 2010. By changing to Green Power and implementing other carbon reduction measures, 5 Star NABERS was achieved “almost immediately”.

The 6 Star NABERS was achieved soon after in 2012.

“It was surprisingly simple to obtain a 6 Star Tenancy rating,” FitzGerald says.

The company worked with building management, at that time Knight Frank, to change the energy supply to 100 per cent renewable.

The building managers also assisted the company with engaging contractors to undertake a lighting changeover.

“It’s not as hard as you might think to make big changes as a tenant, even in an old building.”

In terms of how the green initiatives have benefited the business, FitzGerald says the “positive by-products” have been “more far-reaching and long term than we expected”.

In the short-term, there were benefits in terms of staff morale from the “feel good factor”.

“Everyone in our team felt good about making the changes, even if they demanded changes in behaviours or conveniences, because they knew they were working together towards something bigger than just a profit or a business goal.

“They knew that the actions of today would have long lasting benefit for the future as individuals, the next generations and as part of the broader community.

“You can’t help but feel good when you know you are doing good.”

FitzGerald says the process was also a great way to foster team-building, as the whole business had to work collaboratively and across departments to solve challenges.

In terms of the wider market, she says that over the past eight years the commitment to sustainability has had a positive impact on the company’s reputation.

There’s been recognition that it is “walking the walk when it comes to sustainable impacts” when “so many pay lip service”.

Business is booming

The business has also seen enormous recent growth.

In the 2016 calendar year, it filled 3966 vacancies, an increase of 29.7 per cent on 2015, FitzGerald says.

The demand for candidates with expertise and experience in achieving business outcomes and behaviour change in the areas of environmental, social and governance also appears to be increasing.

In the period between January 2013 and December 2014, FitzGerald says the company was engaged to recruit 165 roles that required a level of environmental commitment or expertise.

In the period from January 2015-December 2016, it was engaged to recruit 361 of these types of positions – more than double the roles in previous two years.

She says the company’s clients tend to be employers that share similar values and typically have their own environmental goals and commitments.

As a supplier, being carbon neutral means doing business with the recruitment firm adds nothing to the client company’s supply chain footprint. This in turn means that if the client company is working towards carbon neutrality, there is no need to purchase carbon offsets for any Scope 3 emissions the recruiter would otherwise be contributing.

There has also been positive feedback from job seekers, FitzGerald says.

“Prospective employees constantly tell us that the reason they applied for our position over others was driven by our values including our commitment to the environment.

“The workers of today and the leaders of tomorrow understand how critical it is that we act now to preserve and protect our future as a community. It drives our employer of choice status in a way that few other benefits are able to.”

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