This article is a result of metatalent.ai’s latest Green Skills roundtable: ‘How the Great Reshuffle Calls for a Greener Transition’, hosted on December 6th 2022. Rehan Haque, CEO of metatalent.ai, summarises the event’s findings, outlining how businesses can promote a greener skills economy in the next year and beyond.
The need to prioritise and resource a green revolution has never been greater as we move into 2023. Pressure placed by the energy crisis has led to questioning whether sufficient progress has been made to meet the growing ambitions and societal expectations of reaching a greener, net-zero economy.
Business leaders must take responsibility for pivoting their companies towards benefiting a green skills economy this year, not just as an approach to long-term net zero goals, but also to help their current workforces. Currently, the shortage of skills in the global talent pool means that adapting to new technologies and reducing business carbon footprints will be a great challenge – and one that needs addressing as soon as possible.
Here are five ways businesses and business leaders should address concerns for a green skills economy this year:
#1 Continue to prioritise work flexibility
We are witnessing a different world after the pandemic. Millions of people are leaving their jobs in search of roles with a better work-life balance, and a workplace more in line with their values. The pandemic helped us to re-evaluate priorities in life; how to look after your health and look after family, and most importantly the flexibility of where to work. It is now a key value of what people are looking for in their job. We can work anywhere, anytime, as long as the flexibility is there.
On the employer side, this has delivered a number of challenges. Primarily, finding the right talent for the job concerned, and then keeping them. In the UK alone there is an all-time high skills gap – there are a lot of jobs, but employers are struggling to find the right talent, and position themselves in line with the wants of workers.
Business leaders need to refocus more on cultivating a thriving internal work culture, emphasising internal mobility, giving opportunities to workers for their career growth, flexibility and hybrid working opportunities, and continued learning and training. The support for workers needs to be there for the future of work, and business leaders must ensure this going into 2023 in order to maintain a motivated workforce.
#2 Promote a greener workforce mindset
The UN estimates about 24 million jobs by 2030 in the renewable space, as we transition towards meeting net-zero targets. In my mind, workers across any job should be green workers. Every single decision people take from living at home to working can be tailored to support the green economy and the green environment, as it requires a united effort from 8 billion people to achieve this purpose in the first place.
This counts not just for renewable energy workers within the cleantech space, but also for those in traditional jobs as well, such as software, IT and engineering. Changing workforce behaviours and mindsets, so that any decisions made can also be wholly considered energy-saving decisions, is important across all sectors.
Businesses will not just be focussing on the transition towards more effective technologies, such as employing the next big AI or fastest processing power, but also more energy-efficient tech to reduce their overall carbon footprint. An energy-conscious worker will prioritise this as well, and thus a greener mindset permeates throughout working decisions.
This is especially important as we approach a recession in 2023; software companies can no longer rely on a supply of funds, and thus being more selective in reducing waste costs contributes to a greener mindset overall. Letting the mindset permeate creates a new generation of workers thinking about their impact on the environment, which then bolsters business efforts to ensure they are moving in the right direction as we approach 2030.
#3 Reduce carbon emissions through migrating away from cities
Reaching a net zero economy requires significant investment. By nature, the human species is invasive – we take what we need to survive. A truly net zero society appears impossible at this stage; the real goal should be something closer to zero, not as high as today.
The real question will be where we are going to do this. For many years, the focus has been on a continuous drive towards cities. Workers move for employment and because the demands of their job require them to be on-site. This urban migration has undoubtedly led to creating environments of high carbon emissions. Balance is needed in order to start reducing them, and a contributing factor to creating this new balance would be flexibility in working locations.
The pandemic has taught us that this can be achieved. Workers can access the resources and work just as efficiently, if not more so, away from cities. In spearheading this drive away from cities and allowing flexibility of working locations – working anywhere – businesses drive the pressure away from cities towards other areas. Reduced pressure results in lower emissions, meaning a gradual step-by-step movement towards reaching net-zero targets.
#4 Support human capital with green skills training programmes
Green skills refer to the knowledge, abilities, values, and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable society. Sectors that require the most pressing emissions reductions by 2030 face the most immediate skills shortages – most notably including housing and transport. Green skills are the building blocks key to utilising human capital at its maximum potential in the new economy, and thus investing in this human capital through green skills training and support is needed.
By 2030, 80% of the current workforce will still be active, so it is imperative that workers now have access to training and upskilling tool, lest they be left behind completely as we transition towards a greener future. Business leaders should therefore be taking time to invest now
#5 Take advantage of business complexity for innovative solutions
No doubt, finding a solution that fits the demands of building a greener economy will be challenging, as there is no one common answer. The situation and scenarios differ from country to country, industry to industry. A talented workforce can navigate these scenarios as they come, but it’s up to businesses to motivate and encourage innovation when it comes to business solutions. This is not just limited to emerging technology developers, or renewable energy workers – finding ways to implement changes and curate a sustainable business model is relevant across all business sectors.
Innovation across both technology and business is needed to reduce the environmental burden across the planet. New technologies are the answer to fixing previous mistakes, but without the talent to use them they are worthless investments. Green skills alongside strong business leadership will help propel businesses in the next years towards solid, sustainable growth. Similarly, a growing awareness and carefulness towards the environment needs to start now; business leaders, we look to you to take the first step in that big change in mindset.