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Half of Gen Z workers would take pay cut to move to a more sustainable role

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 Z1 workers agree they would consider leaving a job that didn’t walk the talk in its promises on sustainability.

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 Z1 workers agree they would consider leaving a job that didn’t walk the talk in its promises on sustainability.*

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

On average, workers are willing to take a significant 19% reduction in pay, rising to 23% among Gen Z to work for a company who is taking action against climate change2.

There’s also increasing evidence of the impact of environmental issues on mental health. 42% 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% in 20213.

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’s not enough for senior leaders to put out promises on sustainability without getting input from the wider workforce – rising to 29% 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.”

eco-Disruptive: tangible action on emissions, fuelled by collaboration

Bupa is driving innovation and sustainability in healthcare with its global eco-Disruptive programme, now in its third year. The programme sees sustainability innovators partnering with its expert teams in its key global locations to explore new healthcare solutions that support Bupa in meeting its net zero and sustainability targets.

To collaborate and learn, Bupa today (12th July) hosted eco-Disruptive Live in London. The event brought together over 400 people to celebrate the programme. Over 20 speakers, including sustainability impact investor and TV personality Deborah Meaden, Futurist Shivvy Jervis, and 2022 Earthshot prize winner and Co-Founder of NotPla Pierre Paslier, participated in discussions around the importance of start-ups in driving sustainable innovation, with lessons from leading entrepreneurs in the sustainable business space.

TV personality Deborah Meaden said: “I was really excited to meet these talented start-ups – a healthy planet needs thriving innovators. Closer collaboration between businesses of all sizes can inspire sustainable solutions that have a much greater impact on the health of the planet, and is critical to regenerating nature. Bupa’s eco-Disruptive programme is designed to test, prove and adopt innovations that meet business needs and will help to make a tangible, positive difference to the health of our planet for generations to come.”

Bupa Wellbeing Index,


  1. For the purposes of this survey and press release, Gen Z is defined as those aged 16-26
  2. Respondents were asked “Would you be willing to take a pay cut to work for a more ethical or environmentally friendly organisation?”. 42% of all respondents said yes, rising to 66% of Gen Z. When asked how much of a pay cut they would be willing to take, across all workers, the mean average was a 19% cut, which rose to 23% among Gen Z respondents.
  3. Comparison between two datasets where the same question was asked to respondents in June  2023 – the main Censuswide dataset referenced throughout this press release – and 2021, with research commissioned by Bupa and conducted by Opinium among a nat. rep. sample of 2,000 UK adults in November 2021.

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