Resigning for the climate: The rise of climate quitting

At the recent climate summit in Dubai, the concept of “climate quitting” enjoyed significant attention. Climate quitting refers to the emerging trend of individuals resigning from their current jobs in order to pursue careers that actively contribute to environmental sustainability. 

Nonso Onowu on January 19, 2024 Average reading time: 4 min
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Resigning for the climate: The rise of climate quitting

Primarily driven by young people, climate quitting involves leaving positions deemed destructive to the planet in favour of roles focused on fighting climate change.

At the recent climate summit in Dubai, the concept of “climate quitting” enjoyed significant attention. Climate quitting refers to the emerging trend of individuals resigning from their current jobs in order to pursue careers that actively contribute to environmental sustainability. Primarily driven by young people, climate quitting involves leaving positions deemed destructive to the planet in favour of roles focused on fighting climate change.

Today, young people confront a challenging decision for the future: either contribute to worsening climate change or dedicate themselves to creating a sustainable planet. Young individuals are increasingly opting for the latter. This shift is so noticeable that a term has emerged to describe it: “climate quitting.” It goes beyond typical resignations and signifies young people seeking renewed purpose in their work by actively contributing to a better, more sustainable world rather than working against it.

Be part of the problem? Or just work on the solution? More and more young people prefer to choose the latter. 

The term “climate quitting” has been around for almost a year but is gaining popularity again, especially in recent weeks. This resurgence coincides with the climate summit held in Dubai in December 2023, where crude oil interests are playing a bigger role than ever before. It aligns with research from CCS marketplace Supercritical, revealing that 35% of UK employees would consider quitting if their employer doesn’t take significant climate action. This number goes up to 53% for Generation Z (Gen Z) employees. Recent research by former Unilever CEO Paul Polman also supports these findings.

Carbon capture 

At the forefront of climate-conscious initiatives in carbon capture stands Dutch-Scandinavian company Paebbl. With a mission to provide carbon-negative building materials, their efforts have been spotlighted by Forbes for the substantial impact on carbon capture.  

To accelerate their growth, Paebbl strategically designated Rotterdam as their hub for research and development. In this dynamic locale, they have effectively drawn in top-tier talent, comprising skilled engineers and operators with execellent backgrounds at renowned companies like ExxonMobil, LyondellBasell, TotalEnergies, Shin-Etsu, and Union Platinum. 

 “An increasing number of professionals from conventional industries are making the shift to sustainability-focused sectors,” remarked Arnold Choi, VP of Engineering. He emphasized the valuable expertise gained in large-scale, capital-intensive, and heavy industries, asserting that these skills are pivotal for small, innovative start-ups like theirs. Choi highlighted the wealth of knowledge these experienced professionals bring, instrumental in enabling Paebbl to overcome challenges deemed insurmountable by many. With these skilled individuals on board, the company anticipates doubling its workforce by the end of the next year.
 

Climate as opportunity 

Paebbl’s narrative aligns with the growing perspective that the climate presents a business opportunity, with sustainable companies strategically targeting areas still associated with the fossil fuel industry to tap into available talent. The International Labor Organization forecasts the creation of 24 million jobs globally in the sustainable sector by 2030, depending upon appropriate policies. Simon Mundy, the author of the book “Race for Tomorrow,” highlights the mega opportunity in investing in green energy or technology, particularly over the long term. Evidently, there is a notable interest from a pool of talent wanting to contribute to this transformative journey. 

Quitter sounds a bit negative. If you consciously choose for the climate, I think that is actually a positive thing.

For Annemiek Nusmeijer, the owner of Greenjobs.nl, the phenomenon of climate quitting is not a new occurrence. Taking charge of the sustainable job platform in 2019, she witnessed a surge of applications from environmentally-conscious job seekers. According to her, from the very beginning, individuals were expressing enthusiasm, stating, “Hallelujah, finally a place where you can find a job with a positive impact!” Nusmeijer prefers to refer to these individuals as ‘climate starters’ rather than ‘quitters,’ as she believes that consciously choosing to prioritize the climate is a positive decision. It is similar to the excitement vegetarians feel when there are more vegetarian options in the supermarket.
 

Frustrated young people 

Aligned with this trend is a perspective shared by BCG CEO Rich Lesser, as highlighted in a recent statement to the Dutch Financial Times: FD. In response to queries about why the consultancy firm actively sought climate activists to join their team, Lesser pointed out, “Some activists are very anti-business. With the exception of a few, I don’t think they want to come to BCG. But I think there are many passionate young people frustrated by the slow pace of needed change who want to make a difference. We are looking for them, and I think they know where to find us.” 

BCG CEO Rich Lesser: ‘There is nothing wrong with demonstrating and protest signs.

There is nothing wrong with demonstrating and protest signs, he also says. ‘But I believe that people who come to work with us for a number of years also develop the capabilities to initiate change by helping companies become more sustainable more quickly.’ 

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