Technology   //   September 13, 2022

Why Pinterest’s commitment to 100% renewable electricity is a vital talent play

Pinterest has big green ambitions for 2023.

The image-sharing and social media platform has committed to buying 100% renewable electricity for its offices globally before the end of 2022. Its San Francisco headquarters will be fully powered by renewable electricity before it rolls out to its other U.S. offices as well as its global hubs in Brazil, London, Paris, Berlin and Tokyo.

It’s the latest in a number of ongoing green initiatives at the company, such as office waste reduction — in which laptops are donated to communities in need, and food waste reduction (the company has AI-based tech in its kitchens that tracks waste). The company also actively incentivizes its employees to use solar at home through a partnership with EnergySage that shares educational resources on going solar and offers a $200 cashback bonus for rooftop solar panels or a $75 cashback bonus for community solar.

To encourage the use of public transportation when coming to the office, Pinterest offers its 2,200 commuting employees a monthly stipend. Plus, it buys renewable energy credits to offset home electricity use for its staff who work from home. Pinterest is also working to better understand where its emissions come from so it can build an effective carbon reduction plan.

“The growing climate crisis requires an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said Mia Ketterling, global sustainability lead at Pinterest. “Pinterest alone isn’t going to solve this climate crisis, but it does have a role to play to make sure we are operating in a responsible and sustainable way.”

Pinterest’s renewable-electricity plan comes at a time when employees — particularly Gen Z and millennials — are increasingly seeking employers with established climate change policies. And with the tight labor market, that’s not a trend any company can afford to ignore.

Deloitte’s 2022 Gen Z and millennial survey revealed that climate change continues to be a top concern for young people, trailing only behind the cost of living. Another 2022 Deloitte report, which polled over 2,000 C-suite executives, highlighted that two-thirds of organizations feel pressured by their employees to act on climate change.

“The growing climate crisis requires an all hands on deck approach.”
Mia Ketterling, global sustainability lead at Pinterest.

Going green should be a win-win for employers when it comes to talent. Concrete sustainable agendas increasingly attract and retain talent, according to various reports. An IBM survey, published May 2021, revealed that 69% of the 14,000 workers polled said they’re more likely to accept a job with an organization they consider to be environmentally sustainable; about 50% said they would even accept a lower salary to work for these types of companies.

New hires aren’t shy about pressing companies for details on their climate commitments. “Some clients tell us that in the majority of [job] interviews, prospective employees are asking questions about how the company is committed to more than just profits,” said Sona Khosla, chief impact officer at donation management platform Benevity, “And they want concrete proof, not just platitudes.”

Making sure that a company is actually being sustainable and that they’re not just performative claims is a big part of it.

“ESG and DE&I are big buzzwords,” said Martha Angle, vp, global culture, diversity, and people at corporate performance management software firm OneStream. “Are you going to care in a year when the headlines drop? I feel like what we’re building is something that’s going to continue regardless of the interest. It’s part of who we are.”

Last month, OneStream opened its new headquarters: a 23,000-square-foot energy-efficient facility that includes 100% LED lighting, window glazing to reduce heating and cooling costs, a special ventilation system to reduce energy consumption and long-life exterior materials.

Sustainability efforts need employee buy-in

Seven in 10 workers polled in the IBM survey, said they’re more likely to stay with an employer that has a good reputation for environmental sustainability.

At Pinterest, it doesn’t stop with just the high-level environmentally-friendly decisions, like using only renewable electricity. Employees who care about protecting the environment can join an employee resource group called “PinPlanet” to further that conversation.

“Across the company, this is something that we see a lot of people are passionate about in regards to sustainability and using our spheres of influence to address the growing climate crisis,” said Pinterest’s Ketterling. 

“ESG and DE&I are big buzz words right now. Like ‘yeah, we care,’ but do you? Are you going to care in a year when the headlines drop?"
Martha Angle, vp, global culture, diversity, and people at OneStream.

OneStream created a similar group “OnePlanet” earlier this year. “This is our employees saying this is what we think we want to do, here’s how we want to get people on board,” said Angle. “That’s how I think sustainability is most genuine. It will actually last if our employees care about it. If it’s just us dictating, no one’s truly ever supporting it.”

The Deloitte 2022 CxO Sustainability report, which polled 2,000 C-suite execs, also found companies’ environmental sustainability efforts have a positive impact on employee morale and well-being (84%), as well as employee recruitment and retention (77%). Meanwhile, according to the same report, younger generations believe companies are not doing enough to invest in employee benefits that support sustainable lifestyles.

“Despite a changing economic environment and shifting labor market, attracting, engaging and retaining top talent remains top-of-mind for many companies and executives,” said Khosla. “So it’s not surprising to see that many of them are continuing to invest in these areas and are communicating their commitment to sustainability just as loudly as ever through their brand, employee and digital channels.”