How Gen Z is accelerating sustainability in the chemical industry
Young Solvay employees won’t settle for words without action
The youth is taking over! It is estimated that by 2025, 75% of the world’s workforce will be made up of Millennials1, who will progressively occupy the majority of management positions over the coming decade. And they will be bringing with them the values upheld by younger generations in terms of diversity, work-life balance and environmental protection. The companies that are truly in line with these values are the ones who will be poised to capture the talents of tomorrow, specifically those entering the job market in the 2020s: Gen Z2.
“Be the change you want to see in the world. Bring your sustainability mindset and join us!”
Céline Monticelli, Sustainable Initiative Leader, Solvay
Change embodied by young generations
With a strong focus on passion and happiness, Gen Z employees are breaking away from traditional models. Being reasonably satisfied with one’s job is no longer enough: they have higher expectations around the workplace as they yearn for novelty and personal fulfillment. Moreover, Covid-19 lockdowns catalyzed a pent-up desire to search for a greater purpose and reassess work-life balance. For example, 64% of US and UK audiences say they would be interested in a 4-day work week3, and over half of employees globally have done or intend to change career paths to improve their overall happiness. But in many cases, the expectation gap between what young employees seek and what companies provide is widening at an alarming rate.
The chemical industry is affected as much as any other sector by these fundamental changes. It’s up to companies to get up to speed with the new workplace realities of today, and Solvay, with its long-standing tradition of caring for its people and fostering innovation in every shape and form, is making every effort to be in a good position here.
But don’t take our word for it. Let’s ask some of the Group’s young new recruits what they have to say. “There is a real necessity today to change the chemical industry, and this necessity is embodied by young generations,” explains Germain L’Hostis, Business Solution Officer at Solvay’s site in Aubervilliers (France). “Chemistry can be transformed, Solvay has the capacity to do so, and that’s the purpose of what I do.”
“For me, the chemical industry is a powerhouse for change,” adds Maika Zocoller Borba, Process Engineer, at Solay’s Paulinia site in Brazil. It makes me really happy to be engaged in direct and specific actions for a future that we hope will be a lot better for the coming generations.”
Courtney Schell, Solvay’s Climate and Energy Transition Project Leader in Houston (USA), has a similarly positive message when talking about the company’s policies: “I tell future employees that Solvay is a very forward-thinking company with ambitious sustainability targets.” She adds that in addition to environmental commitments, the Group is also mindful of people: “Working here, I’ve really seen that Solvay cultivates an environment where the opportunity to grow is strongly encouraged. I’ve really felt that management supports that.”
The importance of being true to your values
In the midst of this sea change in workplace culture, if there’s one thing Gen Z crowds are particularly wary of, it’s insincere corporate communication. Public stances that aren’t translated into concrete action by the companies that take them are a strong deterrent for would-be employees. This is where walking the talk makes all the difference. “For Solvay, sustainability is not a PR stunt, but a true commitment,” sums up Yizhi Zhang, who works at Solvay’s Technology Development Department in Shanghai (China). “And the company’s motto ‘part of the problem, part of the solution’, is exactly the commitment I apply in my current work: finding new solutions for a better world.”
In the end, it’s all about being aligned. As a company, this means being true to the values you project in the way you conduct business. As an employee, it’s going to work with the feeling that what you do doesn’t conflict with what you believe in. “As a citizen, I pay attention to what I buy, how I entertain myself, and it’s the same in my professional life,” says Céline Monticelli, Sustainable Initiative Leader at Solvay’s site in Lyon (France). “My role is to transform our portfolio for more sustainability. I can’t just point my finger at those I consider to be on the wrong side of history.” Her message to future recruits in the chemical industry aptly sums up the state of mind of Gen Z: “Be the change you want to see in the world. Bring your sustainability mindset and join us!”
1) Millennials: anyone born between 1981 and 1996
2) Gen Z: born after 1996
3) Source: GWI Zeitgeist, October 2022