Gen Z choose ethics over wages in the workplace

By Helen Adams
Research from Bupa shows that Generation Z want to work for businesses which have firm ESG commitments - but they remain far more anxious than their peers

In putting their youthful optimism to the test - Gen Z says they are ready to prioritise their mental health over a high salary.

Generation Z (anyone born between 1997 and 2012) were questioned by healthcare company Bupa and the research is clear: those businesses with a strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) stance, will win over Generation Z workers in 2022.


Generation ESG

Bupa’s research showed:

  • 68% of Gen Z are anxious about environmental issues
  • 31% would turn down roles in companies with poor ESG credentials
  • 54% would take a pay cut to work for a business that reflects their ethics

When different generations were asked the same questions, Gen Z stood out.

Who felt the burden of climate change on their shoulders:

  • 63% of Gen Z 
  • 37% of Gen X 
  • 28% of Boomers

Who was anxious about racism and homophobia:

  • 63% of Gen Z said they were
  • 52% of Generation X 
  • 43% of Baby Boomers

Who was also anxious about poverty and inequality:

  • 64% said yes
  • 59% of Gen X 
  • 53% of Boomers  


ESG commitments can have an impact on employee mental health

Bupa’s workplace wellbeing experts have issued a five-point guide for employers, who want to attract Gen Z and broadly support their employees' wellbeing:

  • Encourage habits that improve people and planet 
  • Facilitate action
  • Seek employee input
  • Manage eco-anxiety
  • Lead from the top


“ESG commitments really can have an impact on employee mental health, so it’s important that businesses take note”, said Dr Pablo Vandenabeele, Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa. “A high salary for work that feels meaningless can only satisfy one for so long, whereas feeling like we're contributing to the greater good and making a difference has a positive effect on our self-esteem. It can even reduce feelings of burnout, something that many people are struggling with after a tough couple of years.”

“The pandemic has underscored the inextricable link between healthy people, a healthy planet, and business performance. And for Gen Z, workplace wellbeing is now a critical part of the ESG agenda”, said Sally Pain, Chief Sustainability Officer at Bupa. “As skills shortages bite across many sectors and businesses face a challenging year ahead, it’s easy to think that social and environmental commitments are optional. Our research shows that they are quickly becoming critical to success. For companies who want to build and nurture future leaders for their business, investing in strong targets that connect with their employees’ personal values is vital.”


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