There is plenty of news and noise around ‘green jobs’ – but most of that noise needs to be tuned out. As one recruiter tells Sustainable Future News the term ‘encompasses everything and nothing’. But what are green jobs and what do employers need to realise now?
“Achieving our collective global climate targets is a monumental task, and it is going to take a whole-of-economy effort to make it happen. That means we need a transformation in the skills and jobs people have if we’re going to get there.”
So begins the 2022 Global Green Skills Report from LinkedIn, in a note from CEO Ryan Roslansky. The portentous opening continues by noting that ‘real change will come through a skills-based approach to opportunity.’
Green skills, or green jobs, is a newsworthy term right now. Only this week, a major story has been around a reported creation of 100,000 green jobs in the US since the Inflation Reduction Act became law. Yet it is not as simple as that; an article from the World Economic Forum in January argued the world “lacks the social and green jobs needed to provide a more inclusive, socially mobile and sustainable economy and society.” In the same month, Yigal Kerszenbaum of IFF Ventures wrote in Fast Company that demand for green jobs was outpacing the production of green talent.
Overall, there appears to be a deficit. In total, LinkedIn surmised, job postings that require green skills have increased by 8% year on year over five years; the pool of green talent grew by just 6% a year over the same period. The fastest-growing green skills were in areas such as ecosystem management, environmental policy, and pollution prevention, but the ‘vast majority’ of skills appear in wide-ranging roles, from fleet managers, to data scientists, to health workers.
So what does this mean for employers and employees? Camilla Thomson is associate director for interim ESG and sustainability at Zeren Global, an executive search and recruitment firm. The ESG division is relatively new at Zeren, as is Thomson, who joined at the start of this year having headed up the contract and interim division at her previous role.
This gives a clue as to the key opportunities right now. If the green skills crisis is all it seems, then companies are crying out for those who can deliver immediately. For Thomson, this means evangelising about interim sustainability job opportunities. “A good portion of the candidates I contact might be happy in a permanent role, but because they’re passionate about sustainability and what they do, when they realise they can become freelance and specialise in a nuanced area, they can help to improve multiple company’s environmental impact rather than just one,” Thomson tells Sustainable Future News.
Thomson argues the term ‘green jobs’ itself “just encompasses everything and nothing.” Part of this comes down to the modus operandi of Zeren; “the ESG and sustainability vertical came about because the platform’s wider client base were increasingly asking for help in that sector. All of their job requirements are based on transformation, whether that’s tech, HR, or operations.”
It is the same for Sustainablejobs.nl, a jobs board focused specifically on sustainability. Wouter Meens launched the site two years ago after seeing an uptick in requests on his other job boards, with Sustainablejobs.com following last year. Like Thomson, Meens notes that more experienced candidates are interested in the freelance side.
Meens does not see any particular disconnect between green jobs and the skills required for them, but notes a potential gap at the highest level. “There are jobs which require new skills, and it is almost impossible to find candidates for them with proper experience,” he tells Sustainable Future News in an email. “But in general we see that a lot of companies in sustainability need the same people just like any other business – think online marketers, finance [or] office staff, sales, and engineers.”
Authenticity is important for both the employee and employer. Regular readers of Sustainable Future News will know that companies need to go further than talking the talk. A study last month found that three in five Gen Z students would actively avoid employers they perceived to have a negative impact on the environment.
Meens notes that the bulk of people who sign up to Sustainablejobs – employers and job seekers – are under the age of 45, while Thomson confirms that the first question candidates ask is whether the company is genuine – or ticking boxes. “The term greenwashing can be thrown around just like the word authentic,” says Thomson. “I like to think that when I’m talking to a client, when I qualify a role or project, and decide whether we can partner with the client, I ask questions and probe around whether they genuinely are authentic.
“Everyone will say yes they are [genuine] – and sometimes you just don’t know until you establish a working relationship.”
In an evolving, fast-moving sector, it is unsurprising that actions count for more than words. “If [candidates] have worked for two companies and seen the sustainability journey from conception to a pretty decent known stage, then that’s invaluable,” says Thomson. “Just being a part of that, and seeing that, is invaluable for so many companies now who are going through that same journey.”
So what next steps should employers be looking to take? Thomson says that first of all, a forward-thinking company will start by placing sustainability into the overall strategy and goals by setting measurable targets. “In my opinion this starts from the inside, educating employees about the importance of environmental responsibility and providing opportunities for them to get involved in various sustainable initiatives.” Meens’ comments echo Thomson’s. “I think companies in sustainability should spend much more time on explaining what the sustainability aspect of the product or service is – and also, the positive impact of the company is as a whole,” he says.
Above all else, think outside of the box. “Work the recruitment marketing aspect of the business more – especially for companies with a lot of vacancies,” says Meens. “I would like to inspire companies in sustainability to be more creative in the distribution of jobs and open positions.”
“I always advise my clients to look across industry sectors when hiring, not just their own,” adds Thomson. “A sustainability professional from a different industry can look at your strategy through a different lens and offer another point of view, which is invaluable.”
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