The number of potential new jobs that will be created by 2030 as a result of green economy measures (Source: International Labour Organization -ILO- 2018). Today, more than one year after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the eyes of the world are on governments and large corporations that have committed to a Green Recovery. Greening the economy is intended to repair the economic damages caused by the pandemic and the environmental disaster caused by humanity. To make the transition, green jobs and green skills are needed.
Pledges for a green future
Climate change, job losses, and increasing inequality are some of the consequences that the ecological and economic crises have engendered. Crises now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The health crisis resulted in more than 500 million jobs put in jeopardy, with at least 100 million permanently lost. Not to mention that 2020 was the hottest year on record and overall Earth’s temperature has risen more than 2 degrees since the 1880s. More than ever before, world leaders are coming under increasing pressure to act now for a green and inclusive future.
More than 120 nations have pledged to reach net-zero emissions around mid-century, among these are China and the whole EU. Both belong to the group of the world’s top carbon emitters. Similarly, at least one-fifth (21%) of the world’s 2000 largest companies have committed to achieving carbon neutrality. These companies represent sales of nearly $14 trillion. Other companies such as Microsoft have made bolder climate commitments; by 2030 the big tech will be carbon negative (meaning to remove more carbon than the amount emitted).
The greening of the economy is expected to boost economic outcomes, meet environmental goals, and invigorate the workforce. According to ILO’s data, a global low-carbon economy could create 24 million jobs by 2030. While new green jobs are emerging, jobs in high-emission industries are at risk of extinction. Overall, workers must adapt to meet the requirements of the green development paradigm; conventional and green jobs demand green skills.
Green skills are in demand
The UN Industrial Development Organization defines green skills as abilities workers use to prevent, monitor, or clean up pollution, and optimize conservation of the natural resources that companies use to produce goods and services. Simply put, green skills are the knowledge and values (used at work or not) needed to live in and develop a sustainable society. Transitioning to a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy demands that workers in both green jobs and non-green jobs develop some degree of green skills.
LinkedIn’s studies on green skills have identified over 800 core green skills across different sectors and fields, from financial services to education and procurement. The chart below illustrates the fastest-growing green skills, including those that can be observed in other industries (not exclusively green). According to Karin Kimbrough, chief economist at LinkedIn and leader of the study, the three-digit growth in sustainable procurement skills indicates a significant change in business behaviors. Companies are increasing efforts to broaden the scope of sustainability action by ensuring sustainability along their supply chains.
The most common green skills are those directly linked to jobs in traditionally green industries such as renewable energy and ecosystem management. However, existing jobs in non-green industries are also experiencing a shift in skills required. This is the case of product designers who are expected to integrate environmentally-friendly knowledge in their work, meaning the design of low-impact packaging or the creation of reusable products. The same principle applies to data engineers or investment analysts.
The bottleneck of the economic transition is green skills gaps and shortages. Companies in the energy and resource-efficient sector often lack a qualified workforce that can implement, monitor, and maintain clean technologies (i.e. solar panel installers). Moreover, key positions that can support the transition are not green enough, for instance, risk management officers who now are also expected to assess climate-related risk for their companies. Business leaders shall size momentum to re-, up-, and cross-skill employees, especially those most affected by the pandemic such as young people. Without a suitably trained workforce, a green transition will be impossible.
Greening the workplace
Overall, all jobs are potentially green: the way people perform their jobs has a major impact on the economy, the environment, and society. Companies that understand this principle and take action to train their employees are more likely to succeed in the green transition. Fostering a truly sustainable and inclusive development goes beyond the over-reliance on technology; rather, it is a matter of integrating green knowledge in every aspect of our lives (especially at our workplaces).
A good way to start is promoting the creation of self-organized groups of employees that come together to empower other employees around sustainability. Green teams help companies to operate in a more environmentally friendly way and can be an entry point for the development of green skills at work. In addition, by encouraging employees to participate in corporate philanthropic activities, companies support the development of a green mindset in the workplace. With NooS, companies enable employees (and other stakeholders) to play an active role in impact operations that seek to support social and environmental projects. As the popular saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.