What is Conscious Quitting? The Moral Movement Sweeping Gen Z

Companies without clearly defined values are losing out on talent, and employers need to take note.

As younger workers strengthen their commitment to environmental and social causes, many are willing to turn their back on companies that don’t align with their values.

This movement, which is being dubbed “conscious quitting”, is catching speed quickly too, with new research by KPMG revealing that 82% of UK workers place great importance on shared corporate values, and one in five actively turning down jobs that they deem to be lacking.

According to Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, this trend should be ringing more alarm bells than quiet quitting — the lackluster workplace practice that refers to workers putting in the bare minimum. But what does the data reveal about conscious quitting, and what can employers do to prevent workers from searching for greener pastures?

What is Conscious Quitting?

“Conscious quitting” is a new workplace buzzword that describes employees leaving their current workplace for companies that better align with their environmental and social values.

Not to be confused with quiet quitting or resenteeism, conscious quitting often involves actual quitting and stems from fundamental ethical and moral concerns, rather than general grievances like job dissatisfaction and limited growth opportunities.

The Results Are In: Young Workers Are Voting With Their Feet

Issues like corporate responsibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and global warming have consistently ranked as high priorities among gen Z and millennials. However, while these concerns are nothing new, recent data suggests that conscious quitting may be more widespread than previously thought.

A KPMG survey of 6,000 UK employees has revealed that 20% of office workers would turn down a job if environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors were lacking, while 82% see ‘shared values’ as a key consideration while finding new work.

These beliefs aren’t hypothetical either. The research also found that one in five workers have actually turned down opportunities that don’t align with their values, with this portion rising to one in three for Gen Z employees ages 18 to 24. But are sentiments as strong on this side of the pond?

“Forget quiet quitting, we are entering an era of conscious quitting.” – Paul Polman, Former CEO of Unilever

According to a recent survey by Paul Polman, former Chief Executive of Unilever, yes, conscious quitting definitely is taking place on US soil, and data suggests it may be even more popular than in the UK.

In a survey of 4000 US and UK workers released by Polman this month, it was found that three in four employees wanted to work for a company that has a positive impact on the world, compared to only two in the UK-focused survey.

A shocking 45% of workers would consider quitting their position if their company didn’t deliver a positive impact, with even higher numbers being recorded for members of the millennial and gen Z workforce.

Going Green: Environmentalism is Becoming More Mainstream

According to Paul Nolman, this conscious movement shouldn’t be taking business leaders by surprise.

The businessman describes the era we are currently living through as a “perma-crisis” where issues like pandemics, war, global warming, economic turmoil, and social division stand to threaten our stability and future.

Nolman points out that these concerns are more acute among younger generations since they are disproportionately burdened by many of these matters. For these reasons, it makes sense why young workers are increasingly opting to be part of the solution, rather than the problem.

These opinions aren’t expected to fade over time either, with recent research from Deilotte revealing that second to the rising cost of living, climate change is the top concern of 24% of Gen Z and 25% of millennial workers, garnering even more support than issues like unemployment, mental health, and sexual harassment.

But if you’re worried about the impact conscious quitting may have on your workforce, there are steps you can take to move your business in the right direction.

How Businesses Can Prevent Conscious Quitting

If businesses are looking to continue employing and retaining top talent, they can’t turn a blind eye to issues that contribute towards conscious quitting, like climate change, socio-economic inequality, and racial injustice.

But if you don’t currently demonstrate a commitment to important causes, hope is not lost. According to Paul Polman, businesses take steps to close this “ambition gap” employees are seeing between their values and the company, while improving their resiliency at the same time.

The former CEO says this can be achieved in three major ways — by showing a greater ambition for your values and impact, doing a better job at communicating this, and empowering your employees to help you along the way.

While change within businesses is possible, it’s not something that will be achieved overnight. But as Polman explains, as increasing portions of the workforce are foregoing often well-paid opportunities for the greater good, now it’s time for business leaders to prove that they care too.

Did you find this article helpful? Click on one of the following buttons
We're so happy you liked! Get more delivered to your inbox just like it.

We're sorry this article didn't help you today – we welcome feedback, so if there's any way you feel we could improve our content, please email us at contact@tech.co

Written by:
Isobel O'Sullivan (BSc) is a senior writer at Tech.co with over four years of experience covering business and technology news. Since studying Digital Anthropology at University College London (UCL), she’s been a regular contributor to Market Finance’s blog and has also worked as a freelance tech researcher. Isobel’s always up to date with the topics in employment and data security and has a specialist focus on POS and VoIP systems.
Explore More See all news
Back to top
close Step up your business video conferencing with GoToMeeting, our top rated conferencing app – try it free for 14 days Try GoToMeeting Free