As the world becomes more focused on sustainability, companies are looking for ways to become more environmentally friendly and socially responsible. But what about the recruitment industry? Can and should headhunting be sustainable?

By Grégoire Depeursinge, Managing Partner AIMS Switzerland & France


This is the age of sustainability. CSR and the UN SDGs are everywhere and companies all over the world are scrambling to become more sustainable. For some, this is still only a question of image and greenwashing is enough; for others it is already a path to both greater personal fulfilment for employees and stakeholders and better profitability.

So what is sustainable headhunting and what purpose does it serve? After all, the carbon footprint of executive search companies is not the most significant: travel as well as the use of materials such as paper, for example, have been significantly reduced through the introduction of new technologies. Furthermore individual offices have only few personnel, with, as a rule, many of them franchised entrepreneurs, so that HR policies have only a limited impact. So, while we can and should make further efforts to reduce our environmental footprint and naturally apply best practices in terms of diversity, equality, non-discrimination, etc. to our own teams, the impact we can have on our clients’ organisations is far more important.

Being in contact with many different companies across a large spectrum of industries and countries, we are privileged observers of the evolution of practices, beliefs, corporate cultures, employee expectations. Furthermore, many of us who are active globally like AIMS International are natural laboratories for diversity, equal opportunity and the agile use of technology, being truly focused on our local markets and culture while at the same time operating across all geographies.

Many of us also offer consulting services that cover topics such as culture change, performance management, employer branding and life-cycle management, but should we go further? Should a “sustainable” headhunter serve companies that are responsible for global warming or do not treat their workforce in a way compatible with sustainability principles? And if we stop selling to such companies, will we simply loose business, endangering our own organisations or, on the contrary, increase the trust the market and the candidates have in us and thus generate more profit?

My personal belief, which I know is shared by many of my colleagues at AIMS International, is that being a sustainable headhunter cannot mean to sit in judgement over our clients or society, nor should it be limited to certifying our own organisations in terms of environmental impact, sustainable workplace, etc. We should rather seek to inform, advise and promote inclusive company cultures and sustainable recruitment and employee life cycle management practices, guiding and explaining but also listening to our clients and candidates, in order to achieve the greatest possible impact in favour of global sustainability. Concretely this means for example:

  • Making sustainability policies and expectations in this regard towards employees an integral part of our briefing process as has been the case with us for several years already for every assignment
  • Systematically drawing the attention of our clients to the shifts in candidate expectations towards a greater need for purpose and the impact neglecting candidate care and inclusiveness can have on the image and performance of their organisations while always listening and learning from them as well as respecting their individual history, culture and values
  • Training as many of our consultants as possible in the use of modern assessment techniques and offering advanced assessment services to our clients, thus reducing the impact of biases on recruitment decisions
  • Explaining to our clients that we can only support them efficiently in terms of employer branding if the promises they make are truly kept, which means successful employer branding is all about sustainable employee life-cycle management and implication of the whole leadership team
  • Etc.

Last but not least, sustainable headhunting is also about the quality of the service we offer: seeking the best candidate rather than the first acceptable one, making the effort to truly understand the client’s business environment, entrusting the assignment to the consultant best suited to execute it successfully rather than keeping all the fee for oneself, etc.


 Contact us if you wish to know more or discuss these topics with us.


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