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Competence Centre on Foresight

We foster a strategic, future-oriented and anticipatory culture in the EU policymaking process.

Page | Last updated: 14 Dec 2022

Purpose driven work

More and more generation Y employees are demanding that their employers meet specific values.

© Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Trend: Purpose driven work

A trend indicates a direction of change in values and needs which is driven by forces and manifests itself already in various ways within certain groups in society.

For many people, aspiring to leave the world a better place involves behaving in a sustainable manner in their personal lives. For a company, that means having a meaningful and strategic purpose and finding ways to tie that purpose and sustainability thinking into the values and day-to-day work of employees. The coming decade will require purposeful leadership in order to arrive at a ‘future of work’ that fulfils human potential and creates broadly shared prosperity. Company leaders should ensure the success of workforce strategies by directing a 'green transition' for employees with empathy, within the rule of law, and in line with company values and culture. Also by ensuring outcomes are equitable, and by directing learning through effective resources and meaningful curricula. A range of motivating factors can fuel reskilling and upskilling uptake needed - connected broadly to employees’ sense of purpose, meaning, growth and achievement. 

Sustainability cuts across all aspects of a business, from energy consumption to procurement. To bolster a ‘can do’ belief and attitude among employees, it is important to invest in educating employees about sustainability, and to create systems and processes that make it easier for employees to integrate sustainability into their business decisions. Many sustainability initiatives require specialized knowledge and expertise such as talking to suppliers about sustainable sourcing, or using an eco-efficiency tool to evaluate a new product. 

Given that 96% of Generation Y employees are concerned about the environment (and a large percentage of others too). Improving employee engagement in green business initiatives can lead to a more motivated, productive, and dynamic workforce – one that understands the importance and value of good business ethics and corporate responsibility. Companies that are committed to sustainability will be rewarded with increased employee loyalty, reduced levels of stress and higher levels of productivity. 

This Trend is part of the Megatrend Changing nature of work




Developments happening in certain groups in society that indicate examples of change related to the trend.

People want to work on activities with meaning

Leading companies are investing heavily in training and development, as well as systems and processes that enable sustainability decisions to be made at a large scale, thus engaging employees in the co-creation of sustainable practices. 

Many people have a strong desire for a fair society, based on solidarity. The route to sustainability relies on unlocking the full value of human potential in tandem with profitability and to employ a ‘good jobs strategy', making work meaningful and purposeful. This will expand employees’ sense of growth and achievement.  

Signals of change: GJI, Vorausschau, Stanford Social Innovation Review


Organisations are value driven

European values such as solidarity and unity and collaboration will be key to achieving the ambitious goals of the European Green Deal and to realising the Just Transition – a transition towards a climate-neutral economy that happens in a fair way for everyone, leaving no one behind. Value driven organisations that are committed to sustainability will play a key role in this.   

Companies without a sense of purpose in their vision/mission underperform in the market by 40%. Over the next decade, many European companies, large and small, will become carbon neutral as a commitment to value-led sustainability – and in contrast will ‘grow by greening’. 

Signals of change: Stanford Social Innovation review, Stanford Social Innovation Review


All work promotes and underpins our health, well-being and quality of life

More and more people around the world are beginning to see the purpose of work as self-actualization in harmony with social and natural enlightenments. They have tapped into the realisation that because humanity has progressed at the expense of the environment, it is now time to correct negative environmental trends. 

96% of Generation Y employees are concerned about the environment and expect their employers to take steps towards becoming more sustainable. 51% of employees won’t work for a company that doesn’t have strong social or environmental commitments. 74% of employees say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided with opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues – and 70% would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to important issues. 

Signals of change: Millennium Project, Cone Communications



Interesting questions

What might this trend imply, what should we be aware of, what could we study in more depth? Some ideas:

  • What if companies have to follow and adapt to the value sets of their required work force? What if values demanded diverge and conflict?
  • Who of the workforce has the power to influence the employers? How to overcome the resulting inequalities?