ESG and Life Science Recruitment: Why ESG Initiatives Will Make Your Competition Green With Envy  

A plethora of social, economic and environmental impacts are contributing to the emerging global “polycrisis.” Beyond the pandemic, the future impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and overexertion of natural resources will affect global health in the long term. This will impact the work of life science organizations as climate change is increasingly linked to diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Plus, the life science industry is among the largest carbon emitters, with biotech and pharma as the leading contributors. It’s no surprise that life science companies are focusing on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives. For talent acquisition leaders, this poses unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to life science recruitment. 

In this article, we review the industry’s impacts on the environment, how those impacts affect life science recruitment, and how a green EVP and employer brand can be leveraged as a critical differentiator in your ability to attract talent.  

Life Science’s Impacts on the Environment 

The average carbon footprint of one life scientist ranges from an estimate of four to 15 tons of CO2 per year. This doesn’t even include the use of consumables, chemicals, production resources, equipment, transportation, energy, and construction and building maintenance materials. There’s no denying that the entire industry’s workforce footprint is quite significant. 

Moreover, pharmaceutical production is highly water-intense, and waste is poorly managed with only nine out of 118 pharmaceuticals removing their waste sustainably during the treatment process. Approximately 4,000 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are administered worldwide in prescription and over-the-counter medication as well as therapeutic and veterinary drugs. Residues from these drugs are released into the environment, contaminating the soil, rivers and lakes. With drug waste polluting the environment, the Global Leaders Group has created a call to action for all countries to improve measures for the management and disposal of antimicrobial-containing waste, declaring it as a “major threat to public health.” 

Four out of the top five (80%) global risks forecasted for the next decade are related to global health and climate change. The opportunities created by the industry to improve their environmental impact through ESG initiatives are huge.  

(Source: World Economic Forum, The Global Risks Report 2023) 

Gen Z and Millennials Care About ESG Initiatives

By 2029, Gen Z and millennials will account for 72% of the world’s workforce. This workforce has placed greater importance on ESG issues than previous generations. Considering the industry’s impact on the environment and the global force of this growing talent, millennials and Gen Z will keep the life science industry on its toes. To stay on top, it’s crucial that life science recruitment teams and hiring managers understand what this workforce wants, what they value and how these components contribute to their employment decisions. 

Around the world, young scientists are demanding that “climate justice” be at the top of the global agenda, with environmentalists stressing the need for organizations to radically reduce their carbon emissions. They are tired of politics influencing scientific decisions, slow global engagement and action, and “poor public communication concerning the state of our understanding of climate change.” 

As this talent seeks purpose in their careers, they prefer to work for employers that have set actionable ESG initiatives towards improving their sustainability efforts. Organizations with ESG practices and policies show top talent that they are purpose-driven and progressive, which is a top consideration for this younger STEM-based workforce when applying and working for your company.  

According to a study by Swytch, nearly 70% of Gen Z and millennial respondents say that a strong sustainability plan would affect their decision to stay with a company long term. About 30% of respondents report that they have left a company due to its lack of a corporate sustainability agenda with over 11% doing so more than once. Additionally, a 2023 report by KPMG UK showed that ESG initiatives are influencing employment decisions for almost 50% of UK employees, with millennials and younger workers driving the growing trend of “climate quitting” in search of more environmentally friendly jobs. 

Employers must understand that candidate attraction is more than high salaries and fancy titles. This workforce wants leaders to fearlessly and publicly take a stance on their ESG initiatives and to make it a part of the workplace culture. Failure to do so will make it difficult to attain top talent, further adding to current life science recruitment challenges due to workforce shortages and widening skills gaps. 

Intertwining Your ESG Initiatives into Your EVP and Employer Brand Strategy

With no time to waste, life science organizations need to invest in a “green” employer value proposition (EVP) and employer brand strategy.  

“Today’s labor market wants to join companies that make a difference in a real way.”

Cynthia Burkhardt, Global Head of Talent Acquisition, Kimberly-Clark 

With Gen Z and millennials viewing social and environmental responsibilities as a key differentiator when considering where to work, it’s no surprise that an employer’s ESG initiatives have become a crucial component of the life science recruitment process. Whether your organization is already incorporating sustainable practices into your operations and mitigating risks to climate change or planning to do so, this is the opportunity to showcase that. Here are steps you can take that will appeal to your current and future workforce: 

1. Define Your ESG Voice 

Sustainability buzzwords are not enough, and top talent isn’t buying it. In fact, the European Commission’s National & Consumer Protection survey found that more than 42% of online corporate “green” claims were exaggerated, false or misleading. With “greenwashing” or “green-laundering” on the rise, employers need to establish ways to gain the trust of Gen Z and millennials. Your voice must showcase your purpose and intent. For example, using keywords like “zero discharge” and “risk mitigation,” rather than vague and misleading terminology such as “eco-friendly” or “sustainable,” will have candidates viewing you as more honest and authentic than the competition. 

“Sustainability plays a big role for me. An employer that is supposedly committed to it, but hardly knows what to do with the topic behind the scenes, has no future for me.”

Gen Z respondent from Austria 

2. Communicate Your Mission 

Build your internal and external employer brand messaging around the organization’s ESG initiatives such as corporate sustainability efforts and climate change initiatives. Keep in mind that the internal launch of an EVP and employer branding platform plays a critical part in laying the foundation for the success of the external launch. Bring your EVP to life through transparency and stakeholder alignment. Your employer brand message must be aspirational, future-focused and agile enough to sustain any changes that may come.  

3. Weave ESG Initiatives into Your Life Science Recruitment Marketing Materials 

Incorporate your ESG-centric mission and values into your career site and explain how those objectives are part of the organization’s DNA. On social media and other attraction channels, feature content that is relevant to topics like green training and development, environmental advocacy, waste minimization and corporate reduction of CO2 emissions to attract a wider variety of STEM-related talent. 

4. Showcase Your Investment and Metrics 

Remember that acting on your ESG initiatives is more than providing donations or partaking in “volunteer hours” that gain you a gold star. Let candidates know how much landfill waste you’ve reduced through your recycling program or that you’ve reduced your carbon footprint by 10%. Organizations that actively monitor their social and environmental impacts yield greater candidate attraction and positive impacts to their triple bottom line.  

5. Highlight Employee and Leadership Involvement 

Leverage your employees’ passions, concerns and ideas as a compelling way to address the organization’s initiatives. You can take the output from this to generate recruitment marketing materials, such as employee testimonials, quotes and even videos of leadership involvement or team building initiatives. For candidates, this effort exemplifies a company culture that genuinely wants to make an impact.  

6. Green Up the Candidate Experience 

Alignment of values is top priority for today’s candidates. However, it can be difficult for them to determine if a potential employer’s ethics align with theirs. To improve candidate experience, incorporate ESG initiatives into your job descriptions. For example, call attention to how the role will help achieve sustainability initiatives and feature any employee green benefits like locally sourced perks or green travel packages.  

Most importantly, make sure your recruiters and hiring team are aware of your green values. According to HRD Australia, often times the hiring team is not well-informed on what the company is doing in these areas. A life science recruitment team that is aligned with the organization’s ESG initiatives will ensure smooth communication and a good first impression with potential candidates. 

Can You Keep Up? 

With Gen Z and millennials shaping the future of work, employers cannot afford to trail behind the curve when it comes to ESG. Additionally, as early-career candidates and graduates are a top source for talent in the life science industry, organizations that do not have visible and measurable ESG metrics risk alienating this top talent. Focus on incorporating your ESG initiatives into your organization’s EVP, tweak your employer brand messaging to reflect what your workforce wants.

Read our ebook for more life science recruitment insights

The Changing Workforce in Life Science: Adapting to a New Era

The Changing Workforce of Life Science: Adapting to a New Era

The Changing Workforce of Life Science: Adapting to a New Era

Talent Recruitment Strategies to Stay Ahead of the Curve

From increased adoption of technology in scientific research to the growing demand for innovation in pharmaceuticals and medical diagnostics, the global life science industry is changing rapidly, requiring recruitment teams to be agile to meet demand.  

With 87% of life science executives indicating that they’re experiencing skill gaps and expect to experience more within a few years, life science organizations must invest in better talent acquisition strategies to future-proof their workforce. 

In this ebook, we explore leading industry developments that are transforming the life science workforce: 

  • How demand for tech talent is reshaping the industry 
  • How innovation in medical research and patient care are creating skills gaps 
  • How the global push for sustainability and climate change initiatives is impacting the workforce 

Plus, learn how an RPO partner can help your life science organization rethink and remodel current recruitment strategies to overcome talent acquisition challenges.  

Breaking DE&I Barriers in Life Science: Tips to Build & Recruit a Diverse Workforce

Over 20 years ago, the U.S. Congress passed the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act, or the Healthcare Fairness Act, to address national issues such as the increasing need for a diverse workforce. With focus on the life sciences, it stated, “There is a national need for minority scientists in the fields of biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and health services research.” Yet, underrepresented populations are still the largest “untapped STEM talent pools in the United States.” 

Black and Hispanic individuals remain underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce. Plus, women remain underrepresented in fields like physical sciences, computing and engineering. Moreover, organizations in Europe are struggling to find and retain women in STEM. According to Eurostat, female scientists and engineers remain a minority in STEM roles, and despite increases over the past decade, women still make up only 16.5% of engineers in the UK. 

For life science organizations, the lack of minorities and women in STEM fields and the sector overall will present long-term challenges in cultivating a workforce that will help them remain competitive in our increasingly diverse and interconnected world. 

However, it seems there hasn’t been much progress made in the 20+ years since the Healthcare Fairness Act. So, how can life science organizations make a difference in creating more diversity in life science careers? Keep reading to learn more about the DE&I challenges and opportunities for life science employers. 

Life Science’s Lack of a Diverse Workforce

Diversity is lacking across the entire life science industry, from research to clinical work. According to the U.S. National Science Foundation, the representation of minority ethnic groups in the science fields must more than double to match the groups’ overall share of the U.S. population. In fact, 65% of the U.S. workforce in life science are white, 19% are Asian, 8% are Hispanic and only 6% are Black. 

Being a future-focused employer requires investment in building diverse and inclusive teams. Bringing underrepresented groups into your organization provides a full range of benefits and skills to drive innovation. The issue is particularly pressing as the industry undergoes a wave of transformation due to the disruption of tech—further widening the current skills gap.  

Additionally, diversity in leadership will help you boost retention and attract talent. With 85% of life science employees who identify as a minority saying they are ‘hugely underrepresented’ in senior roles, the lack of diverse leadership representation could be detrimental to your organization. It could affect your bottom line and further hinder your ability to attain those highly competitive, in-demand skills (like data analytics and computer programming) needed within the industry.  

Diversity in Life Science

Furthermore,  Informa Connect conducted one of the largest industry employee research reports to date, which surveyed life science professionals around the world about their opinions on diversity and inclusion in the industry. When asked what the industry’s biggest problem is pertaining to having an inclusive and diverse workforce, over a third of respondents named the lack of representation of minorities in leadership roles. 

Gender Inequality in Life Science

Due to the lack of women in STEM careers, life science employers struggle to attract women to R&D roles. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 70% of global researchers are men. This creates problems for life science employers as both female life science professionals (65%) and male professionals (59%) believe women are under-represented overall. It doesn’t help that, although women make up almost half (48%) of life science workers, men still out-earn women by 13%.

Diversity in Life Science

Why is Diversity in Life Science so Important? 

Although there are clear disparities around representation of minorities and women in life science, only 23% of organizations are giving significant focus to DE&I and only 13% are financially investing in diverse groups.  Organizations that aren’t prioritizing DE&I will struggle to cope with the industry’s current talent shortage. The lack of diversity puts organizations at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent. 

In our recent research report, candidates say that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. This is even more important for candidates from underrepresented groups. In Biospace’s latest report, 93% of women of color responded that they believe diversity is important when considering a job. Investing in DE&I-focused talent acquisition strategies, programs and training creates a huge opportunity for life science organizations to grow a diverse and productive workforce. 

A diverse and inclusive work environment builds trust, increases engagement and improves business outcomes.  

Organizations with strong “diversity climates” have increased employee job satisfaction and employee retention as well as financial returns above national industry medians. Companies with above-average diversity scores report nearly 20% higher revenue due to innovation.  

Moreover, diversity provides many benefits for improved organizational performance and productivity such as:  

  • Broader range of skills and experience  
  • Multilingualism to support global growth 
  • Increased cultural competence and awareness 

Diverse workforces, including cognitively diverse teams, leverage a greater variety of perspectives to solve problems faster with improved accuracy. According to the International Labor Organization, when companies establish inclusive business cultures and policies, they experience a nearly 60% increase in creativity, innovation and openness. 

For example, the majority of the western world’s research uses tissue and blood from white individuals to screen drugs and therapies that are developed for a more diverse population. However, different ethnic groups experience different outcomes from various treatments, methods and diseases. A diverse workforce, especially in biomedical science and pharmaceuticals, would more likely push for inclusion in research and testing and provide different perspectives that could lead to new insights and discoveries. 

Strategies for Attracting, Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Workforce in Life Science 

Creating a diverse and inclusive work environment can be challenging, but here are some proven steps for attracting top diverse talent and establishing equitable recruitment practices. 

1. Focus on Employer Branding  

Show diversity as part of your organization’s DNA by articulating a compelling EVP and employer brand that clearly defines and establishes your organizational commitment to DE&I. Building your internal and external employer brand messaging gives you greater influence over what you are known for, how you are perceived by candidates and the value that you offer to your employees. Make sure your recruitment marketing materials are relevant to a variety of audiences with imagery and content that highlights diversity in race, gender and more. Plus, showcasing real employees adds a layer of authenticity to your employer brand.  

2. Update Your Career Site 

After viewing a job post, a candidate’s first point of contact is usually your career site. It’s crucial that your career site shows your DE&I efforts. Sharing diversity goals publicly and transparently is an important way for candidates to experience your organizational values and mission.  

3. Keep Job Listings Simple  

Plain language is especially important if you want to reach diverse populations. Use verbiage that your candidate would use rather than your internal terminology and assess your job ads for biased language. Avoid verbiage like “expert,” “rockstar” or “like a family” that are often masculine and project a homogeneous work culture that prioritizes like-minded thinking over diversity. Additionally, remove any experience or skills that are “nice-to-have” in your job descriptions, and keep in mind that men and women value different things. For example, while men usually prioritize compensation, most women see work-life balance as their number one priority. 

4. Go Beyond Your Careers Site 

Elevate your sourcing strategy by:  

  • Optimizing your reach by posting on relevant job boards and platforms. Don’t forget that professional networking groups, like the Black Healthcare and Medical Association, are great resources to get your job ads in front of the right people.  
  • Establish relationships with STEM-based programs at universities, alumni associations and other networking groups that cater to diverse populations. 
  • Get your internal teams involved by asking for referrals. Diverse employees are often connected with diverse candidates. 

In doing so, you cast a wider net to reach a larger pool of diverse candidates, maximizing your chances of growing your workforce. 

5. Representation Matters 

During the interview stage, make sure candidates see how much you value diversity by having a diverse panel of interviewers. When a candidate sees someone who looks like themselves or another minority when being interviewed, it creates a sense of belonging and reaffirms your company’s mission to establish a diverse culture. Additionally, make sure your hiring panel has received diversity training and can successfully communicate with those that think differently and have unique backgrounds or working styles. 

6. Invest in Diversity Training 

Through diversity training, you can help change systematic diversity hurdles—such as your organization’s hiring practices and how diverse talent is sourced as well as taking action to increase diversity at the board or leadership level.  

“Companies need to acknowledge the unique needs and contributions of employees with multiple historically excluded identities.”

Yaro Fong-Olivare, Executive director of Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business (CWB)

Diversity training programs are not a one-size-fits-all solution and come in various training types, which can be customized to help achieve your organization’s goals. Diversity training helps employees feel a sense of belonging, so they are more likely to stay with an organization, which can improve your retention rates. 

7. Enable Talent Acquisition Technology and Track Your Efforts 

To build a diverse candidate pipeline, it’s critical that you engage cutting-edge technology and analytics tools to know where your diverse candidates are coming from, how they’re progressing through the recruitment process, and which of your sourcing channels or campaigns brought them to you. Although these insights are often stored in different systems and platforms, a comprehensive reporting tool can help synthesize your data and visualize trends.  

For example, PeopleScout’s Affinix™ brings together applicant tracking systems (ATS), candidate relationship management (CRM) systems, artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital marketing, predictive analytics and digital interviewing to provide award winning innovation to support your organization’s diverse hiring goals. Affinix Analytics’ diversity dashboards show how diverse candidates are entering your pipeline in real time. By tracking how candidates progress through your funnel, you can determine which resources and campaigns bring in top candidates from underrepresented groups. From there, you can analyze the results, identify hiring trends, adjust sourcing spend and strategy to make data-driven decisions. 

Conclusion 

Building an inclusive and diverse workforce doesn’t start and end with just hiring underrepresented groups, it requires an entire organizational shift. In order for the life sciences industry to maintain leadership and competitiveness in science and medical advancement, it’s crucial that organizations invest in building a strong and diverse talent pipeline. Everyone from the C-Suite to hiring managers has an important part to play in achieving DE&I goals and shrinking the industry’s growing workforce gaps.

McKesson: High-Volume Veteran-Focused Hiring Solution

McKesson: High-Volume Veteran-Focused Hiring Solution

Life Sciences RPO

McKesson: High-Volume Veteran-Focused Hiring Solution

As one of the world’s largest life sciences and healthcare companies, McKesson required a high-volume hiring solution to fill positions across multiple departments. PeopleScout delivered an RPO solution with a special emphasis on boosting diversity and the client’s veteran hiring initiatives.

10 + Year Partnership
95 % of All Requisitions Have Diverse Candidates
8 % Over 8% Veteran Hiring Achieved, Up from 3.3%

McKesson has engaged with PeopleScout for 10 years. Over the course of our partnership, PeopleScout has managed hiring for a variety of positions including professional, managerial, sales, finance and administrative roles. PeopleScout’s engagement includes a specific focus on hiring veterans in all positions to support McKesson’s goal to become known as a top employer for veterans and military spouses.

Solution

VETERAN TALENT COMMUNITY

PeopleScout created a Veteran Talent Community which provides McKesson with access to thousands of active and passive veteran job candidates and opens the door to additional job opportunities for veterans.

IMPROVED WEB DESIGN

PeopleScout helped to administer a customized McKesson veteran careers webpage to attract and process veteran candidates.

RECRUITMENT MARKETING

Veteran-targeted marketing and sourcing strategies were developed including improving relationships with more than 800 military organizations, posting jobs on veteran job boards and social media marketing.

ONGOING TRAINING

PeopleScout provides ongoing training and education for members of the recruiting team to ensure military resumes are matched with civilian job requirements.

SCREENING PROCESSES

A veteran priority screening process was created to identify and prioritize veteran candidates.

DIVERSITY & INCLUSION

PeopleScout hired a Navy veteran to lead the D&I initiative on the recruiting team.

Results

HIRING SUPPORT

In 2019, PeopleScout managed more than 3,000 hires across North America.

DIVERSITY IMPROVEMENT

PeopleScout provides a diverse slate of candidates on 95% of all requisitions.

INCREASED VETERAN HIRING

Veteran hiring improved from 3.3% to 8.6%.

STRONGER EMPLOYER BRAND

Targeted veteran recruitment and marketing strengthens McKesson’s veteran employment brand, resulting in McKesson being recognized as a leader in veteran hiring by national media outlets.

McKesson’s Veteran Talent Community, veteran landing page and recruitment marketing strategy are supported by PeopleScout’s proprietary talent technology, Affinix.

At a Glance

  • COMPANY: McKesson Corporation
  • PEOPLESCOUT SOLUTIONS: Recruitment Process Outsourcing, Talent Advisory
  • ANNUAL HIRES: 3,000
  • ABOUT MCKESSON: McKesson Corporation is a diversified life sciences and healthcare services leader dedicated to advancing health outcomes for patients everywhere. The organizaiton partners with biopharma companies, care providers, pharmacies, manufacturers, governments and others to deliver insights, products and services to help make quality care more accessible and affordable.