I spoke last week with Tim Sanders, author of a book that came out last fall that has one of the arguably best titles ever: "Saving the World at Work."
As it might sound, one big thesis of what essentially is a batch of corporate case studies is that the pool of talent (that would be you, me and us) will increasingly seek to work for organizations that care about ecology and larger issues of corporate social responsibility and will shun businesses that don't make this a priority either implicitly or explicitly.
Despite the recession, the number of individuals who are actively scrutinizing companies for their attention to social issues is rising, he contends. Approximately 18,000 individuals have joined the Saving the World at Work Web site/social network associated with the book, where they share ideas about how to encourage companies to improve their social credentials.
"Sustainability is the new quality movement," Sanders suggests.
This is important because he believes the much-feared war for talent will happen pretty much on schedule by 2015 or 2016 despite all the layoffs that have left people out of work over the past 18 months.
High-quality talent will increasingly demand attention to sustainability, he believes, which means businesses should pay attention not just to how their brand performs publicly as far as its "social reputation" but also to how they support their employees in their own sustainability, social responsibility and environmental quests. Otherwise, managers with companies that don't get it might lose great job candidates to companies who make sustainability a priority.
How might this express itself?
Sanders says he increasingly sees small businesses exploring the idea of "eco-profit sharing." Basically this is the idea that if the entire workforce pulls together to meet some goal for environmental efficiency or responsibility that everyone shares in some percentage of the money saved. If the company is going to save $1 million by changing its data center policies, as an example, why shouldn't the people who support that effort get some sort of cut.
It's tougher for larger companies to do this, although you may hear about departments or divisions being creative.
As far as public expressions of corporate social responsibility that might make one brand more attractive than another, Sanders says he has run across hotels in Europe that have begun rewarding guest reward points for participating in environmental savings programs. Choose not to have your sheets or towels changed, for example, and you could earn points AND feel good about saving some water.
Of course, much of this activity is still fringe activity, but Sanders says the hints of an economic recovery in recent weeks have prompted more corporate inquiries about his book, which is full of best practices ideas for a smarter planet.
Incidentally, if you want to follow Sanders' daily comments about the sustainability movement, his Twitter handle is twitter.com/SandersSays.
If you want to follow MY comments about green technology and corporate social responsibility, follow twitter.com/HeathClancy.