How can you fill the sustainability skills gap?

Adil Hafidi
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The increase in demand for environmental skills is outpacing the increase in supply, raising the prospect of an imminent green skills shortage. Adil Hafidi explains the key priorities for businesses upskilling their people in sustainable business practices.

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) is at the forefront of everyone’s agenda, and encompasses all industries; from carbon footprint, waste, and natural resource management through banking to footwear. According to the World’s Economic Forum Jobs Report, the need for environmental stewardship skills increased by 10, only second to the need for AI and big data skills. 

An illustration of where these skills will be needed, is regulatory reporting for the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which came into force on January 5, 2023, and will now have a significant impact in the realm of corporate sustainability reporting within the EU. It mandates detailed reporting on sustainability issues, providing transparency to facilitate the evaluation of their performance in this area. Companies subject to the CSRD will need to report not only on social and environmental risks, but also on the impact of their activities.  

This is only one example of how they'll have to bridge the sustainability skills gap. At our recently held sustainability skills round table over 10 large cross-sector businesses reported that they urgently need to upskill all staff, from C-suite senior management, through to project managers, and new graduates, with a focus on creating sustainability specialists.

Seven key sustainability skills 

These are seven key areas where participants identified an imminent green skills shortage. 

Sustainability management

Companies need employees who can develop and implement sustainability strategies, set goals, measure progress, and report on results.

Environmental science

Knowledge of environmental science is key to identifying and assessing environmental risks, developing sustainability plans, and staying up-to-date with emerging issues.

Energy management

Companies need employees who can manage energy consumption, identify energy-saving opportunities, and implement energy-efficient technologies.

Waste and natural resource management

Effective waste management is critical for reducing an organisation's environmental impact. Companies need employees who can develop and implement waste reduction strategies, manage waste streams, and evaluate waste management technologies.

Green building design

As more companies seek to reduce their carbon footprint, they're looking for employees who can design and manage green building projects.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy is becoming increasingly important as businesses look for ways to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels energy sources. Companies need employees who can manage renewable energy projects, evaluate renewable energy technologies, and stay up-to-date with emerging energy trends.

Corporate social responsibility

Companies need employees who can develop and implement CSR programmes, engage with stakeholders, and report on social and environmental performance.

The path forward: a skills-based approach

By breaking down roles into the specific capabilities required to do them, you can develop talent strategies that build environmental skills for your existing workforce. Just as most roles now require digital skills, jobs, ranging from procurement specialists to fleet managers to product designers, can be performed in a more sustainable way if workers have the right green skills.

For more insight and guidance, get in touch with Adil Hafidi.

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