The green skills needed for a sustainable corporate future

The green skills needed for a sustainable corporate future

Business 25 March 2024

Green skills — the knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed for a sustainable and resource-efficient society — are in high demand but low supply.

Do Better Team

A recent report by LinkedIn states that although the hiring rate for candidates with at least one green skill is 29 percent higher than average, only one in eight workers has them

So how do we bridge this gap? How can companies attract and retain the talent needed to deliver sustainability goals? At 4YFN, Esade Professor Maja Tampe put the question to Alexandre Téchy (product analytics manager for Ecovadis), Alicia Paricio Martin (director of HR for Southern Europe at ERM), Borja Segura (sustainability manager at ClimatePartner) and Ximel Bladh (sustainability manager at Autodesk). 

Passion drives change

“As a candidate, you need the passion to fight for what you believe in and the resilience to keep it a priority,” Ximel Bladh began — a theme that recurred throughout the debate.  

Paricio Martin, director of HR with responsibility for recruiting the next generation of talent, agreed: “Passion is really one of the main drivers for talent,” she said. “And for the companies, flexibility is essential - we are in a volatile and constantly changing world.” 

We live in a world where employees are demanding much more from their companies

Borja Segura agreed that adaptability is essential on both sides — with a caveat. Finding an area to be passionate about drives motivation, he said, as long as you keep an open mind. 

“This is a new industry that is changing every day, with new problems and new legislation,” he explained. “You have to bear in mind that what you know today is not going to be enough for tomorrow. You need a mindset of constant learning

“Sustainability as a sector is such a big industry with many different topics and solutions - it's just a matter of finding your place. I started focusing on security and I ended up in decarbonization and carbon footprint.” 

Define roles, attract talent

To attract the right people, Alexandre Téchy pointed out, companies need to accept a lot of the responsibility.  

“We live in a world where employees are demanding much more from their companies,” he said. “Yes, we need resilience and passion, but we also need the companies to get the job specifics and the profiles right.” 

Paricio Martin agreed: “There is a talent shortage and companies have to be very attractive to the candidates we need. They want to see their values are aligned with the company and its social impact.” 

Hiring challenges

The ever-present issue of expertise in AI and machine learning is as relevant in sustainable career development as any other sector - something Téchy admitted he finds challenging as a hiring manager. 

We need people able to move a company towards sustainability when that may not align with monetary goals

“I need people who have the technical capabilities to understand and communicate data, but who can also shape sustainability in a very fragmented market,” he said. 

“As a hiring manager, if I say I want a show of hands from people who buy organic, they’ll all raise them. The challenge is to uncover the inner motivation and find the people who have the resilience to move a company towards being more sustainable when that may not be aligned with business and monetary goals.” 

Spread the word

For Bladh, rather than laying claim to skills she doesn’t have, her sustainability credentials were gained almost by accident. “I’m a sneaky sustainability ambassador!” she joked.  

“I wasn’t hired because of my environmental curriculum, but for my sales skills. But that’s one of the great things about sustainability now being at the top of the agenda. Companies must drive sustainability, but every employee plays a role.  

“They’re the ones who are speaking to customers and designing and driving the world. I contact them as an executive account manager, not as a sustainability ambassador - so that's what I mean by sneaky. If we all make sustainability a priority message, then we’re reaching all these people. We can all spread the message.” 

Fight for the cause

In a job-seekers market, candidates are in a strong position to drive this ethos. As Segura explained of his own experience: “I come from the marketing and sales side of the industry and didn’t have a background in sustainability outside of my own interest. 

“But I believe it's a matter of bringing some purpose to your professional career and being the one to fight for sustainability. My company knows about sustainability, and we’re an international company, so I feel very comfortable having this conversation in meetings with companies that may not have our knowledge.” 

Taking the conversation in a more provocative direction, Tampe asked the experts about the contradictions that exist in the intersection between sustainability and corporate success.  

Hard truths

According to Bladh, an expanding middle-class population is creating a challenge. “We have a growing professional population with around 400,000 people entering the middle classes every day,” she explained. “That creates demand for goods and materials and the consumption pattern changes.” 

A modern successful candidate needs technical knowledge, critical thinking, excellent communication and multicultural awareness

However, Téchy was keen to stress that change was possible without aiming for perfection: “I think what matters at the end of the day is change in the right direction and in the fastest way,” he said.  

For Segura, that change should be delivered by everyone - but driven by specialized professionals. “You have to bring professionals on board — you can’t just rely on your finance or marketing experts to drive sustainability when there’s new legislation constantly being introduced,” he said.  

The new Renaissance?

As she drew the panel to a close, Tampe likened the requirements of a successful candidate to a modern Renaissance: deep technical knowledge, critical thinking, excellent communication, international and multicultural awareness and a demanding package of soft skills

“Watch out, talent, because the world is not going to get easier,” she warned. “Sustainability isn’t a skill to add to a CV without the ability to back it up. 

“But the positive news is there are lots of opportunities if you have purpose and passion.” 

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