Is 2024 the Year of “Climate-Quitting”?

  • Published on February 27, 2023

A significant shift is occurring in the priorities of job seekers. Where once what qualified a job as prestigious was compensation and big-name employers, employees in 2024 are showing a strong desire to make a tangible impact through their careers. 

In 2023, global warming surpassed 1.5° Celsius for all 12 months for the first time on record (equivalent to about 2.7° Fahrenheit), making it not only the warmest year on record but also marking the first year above a critical climate limit scientists have warned about.

A substantial percentage of today’s workforce is seeking to spend more of their time on solutions to the climate crisis, like protein alternatives and food technology.

The noticeable change in temperatures has sparked a sense of urgency and a collective realization that individual, eco-friendly habits like eating plant-forward diets and driving electric vehicles are just not going to be enough. As a result, more people in the workforce are seeking roles where they can dedicate their time and expertise to effecting systemic change.

The phenomenon of "climate-quitting" is gaining traction, particularly among younger demographics. A third of 18- to 24-year-olds have rejected job offers based on a company's environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance, opting instead for roles that prioritize sustainability and societal impact, according to KPMG.

Research commissioned by former Unilever CEO Paul Polman underscores the prevailing sentiment among employees. A staggering 76% of respondents expressed a desire to work for companies making a positive impact on the world. This sentiment extends beyond mere preference, with over a third of respondents admitting to leaving a job due to misaligned values.

With nearly one-third of greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the food system, professionals increasingly see food transformation as a crucial battleground where they can make a tangible difference in the fight against climate change. Other impactful sectors include renewable energy, sustainable building materials, policy and advocacy, and carbon removal technologies.

"There are a lot of great websites like Climatebase and that help people find jobs in the general climate space, but we wanted to focus specifically on careers in alternative protein and food system transformation,” says Noga Golan, Managing Director at Alt Protein Careers.

“There wasn’t always this level of awareness of how fundamental alternative protein solutions are to solving the climate crisis," says Golan. "People used to think that if they didn’t have a degree in Renewable Energy or Climate Science, there was no way to meaningfully contribute. But that’s no longer the case.”

At the COP28 UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai held last December, 159 counties signed the UAE's declaration recognizing the need for food system transformation in order to address climate change.

To cater to the wave of interest from professionals seeking roles with purpose, Alt Protein Careers has built a dedicated job board and resource center. Alt Protein Careers announced today that it is publicly launching podcast series hosted by Sam Fisher and a new Instagram account, in addition to its Linkedin page that shares new job posts, to support mission-driven job seekers.

The organization also intends to provide job fairs at events like Future Food Tech in San Francisco, Harvard’s Food4Thought festival, Climate Week, the Duke Alternative Protein Conference, Plant Based World, the Reducetarian Summit in Dallas, and many more. These initiatives aim to connect individuals with opportunities that align with their values and aspirations for impact-driven careers.

This shift in mindset extends to the willingness to sacrifice salary for meaningful work. Harvard Business Review reported that nine out of ten people are willing to accept lower compensation to do more meaningful work. 

“ESG” used to be a strong selling point for employees to attract talent; but that’s not enough anymore. Mission-driven professionals are no longer satisfied with companies merely paying lip service to environmental responsibility: employees are seeking organizations that are actively making a positive difference. 

“People don’t want to be sitting on the sidelines anymore. Individuals are increasingly drawn to jobs where they can be part of the solution.”

The pursuit of a career with meaning becomes not just an individual aspiration but a collective imperative. The desire to leave a positive legacy for future generations serves as a driving force behind this shift towards impact-driven work. In the words of Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani, having a positive impact on the world is no longer a by-product of good business—it's a fundamental necessity for meaningful existence.