With sustainability and green credentials rising in importance, Nic Paton asks what our managers might need to know to keep their teams green
Six years from now, in 2020, the government is anticipating the number of ‘green economy’ jobs, in other words jobs associated with renewable energy, recycling, sustainable business processes and the like, will have increased by nearly a quarter of a million. Some 200,000 new jobs will be created within the renewable energy sector alone.
The prediction was made in December 2013 by the Department of Energy & Climate Change to trumpet the fact its Energy Bill had received Royal Assent and that, through its “Electricity Market Reform Delivery Plan”, we will begin to see more private sector investment in jobs within the electricity sector.
Assuming we’re not all wandering around, Buck Rogers-like, in BacoFoil suits and jet-packs, but also assuming concerns and pressures around climate change, energy use and resource management are likely to have intensified by then, what sorts of green jobs and roles will we see coming through in the future? More widely, too, what is this going to mean for managers; how will managers need to be incorporating green issues into the day-to-day running of their businesses and what sort of role will technology play in this future environment?
“By 2064 ‘green jobs’ will not exist. The reason is that all jobs will be ‘green’ by definition. The term ‘green’ will be completely defunct,” predicts Andrew Raingold, executive director of the Aldersgate Group, an alliance of business and political leaders, NGOs, think-tanks and others that work to promote the benefits of a sustainable future.
How each nation addresses the challenge of resource use will begin to sharply define competitiveness and growth and, in turn, job creation, he forecasts. “The world by 2064 will, by necessity, have to be very low resource; this will just be the norm. You might even have the classification of ‘fossil fuel job’. In every job, in every profession, there will be elements that we now refer to as ‘green’.
“By 2064 we will probably be powered by zero carbon energy so, for example, any car technician will need new skills and knowledge in this area. It will just be how things are done in 2064. If you do not operate in a very low resource way, then you will soon cease to operate,” he adds.
It is possible to see at least elements of this consciousness coming through at executive level already. A study by Ashridge Business School in 2012, for example, concluded that business leaders are increasingly connecting company success with paying attention to social and environmental issues.
Green to the core
As Ashridge director Matt Gitsham put it at the time, this is part of a shift away from reactive, “defensive” social responsibility and environmentalism – the annual philanthropic gesture designed just to look good in the annual report, the token recycling programme and so on. In its place there is now emerging, at least among some bigger employers, a much deeper recognition of the benefits that can accrue from having a more environmentally conscious, more sustainable workforce.
“You might think that, as a business leader, you cannot afford to waste time and resources on these challenges, that it is not your job. But as your peers at the top of a growing proportion of the world’s most influential businesses reshape and redefine tomorrow’s business landscape, and what it means to succeed as a leader in it, the evidence suggests that in today’s world, you cannot afford not to,” he said.
Between now and 2064 what we will increasingly see is what you might term “pale green jobs” coming to the fore, says Andrew Cartland, managing director of Acre Resources, a recruitment company that specialises in the corporate responsibility, sustainability, environment, health and safety and energy sectors.
By this he means mainstream jobs in an organisation that will nevertheless contain a green, environmental or sustainability remit. So it might be a software engineer needing to consider energy efficiency when upgrading or investing in technology or a sales and marketing executive needing to prioritise managing the reputational issues that are associated with the organisation’s energy footprint or the sustainability of its business processes in the press.
Managers will need to be increasingly conscious of the world around them and their (and their organisation’s) role and responsibilities within it, both the bottom-line consequences of, say, energy costs and the reputational impact of environmental vandalism or social irresponsibility, Cartland contends. Moreover, as consumers become increasingly environmentally savvy and aware, the need for transparency in areas such as supply chain management and resourcing will become ever-more important, especially in an ‘always on’ social media-led world.
“Managers will just have to be doing this stuff because it will be so integral; it will just creep into their roles on a day-to-day basis,” Cartland predicts.
“Ten years ago the CFO or FD role would not necessarily have known about environmental issues. But now, if you are talking to a CFO, especially one in retail or consumer goods, they will need to be well versed in, for example, water stress or energy use. The world now, and into the future, will have energy shortages, so green and sustainability issues are becoming much more integrated into mainstream roles,” he adds.
“By 2064 the economy may look radically different; it will probably have totally decarbonised. So how companies do business and how they generate profit will also have changed; and that is going to be a huge challenge,” agrees Trewin Restorick, a leading environmental change campaigner and up until January founding partner of environment charity Global Action Plan (GAP).
“I think the economy will be much less based around resources and more around experiences. It will be a more people-intensive, less resource-intensive economy,” he adds.
GAP in December published research arguing schools and employers would need to adapt to a whole raft of new green jobs in the future, including outlining what it argued were likely to be the ‘top 10’ green jobs as predicted by a range of business leaders (see panel overleaf). It also forecast green jobs would have risen to 1.4 million by 2020, from one million now.
‘Green’ as a concept is already moving – and will continue to move – away from something associated with legislation and compliance simply to being a business objective, suggests Tim Balcon, chief executive of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA). “Energy costs are going to be increasing, so it will be the ability to skill the workforce to be able to manage its energy use. Everyone will need to understand that even just turning the light off is important,” he says.
Green awareness will therefore need to become embedded in the daily management consciousness. “It is difficult to say ‘this is what green jobs will be’ because being green will be absolutely systemic to people’s jobs. Being aware of the environment and having those skills will be important within any type of job,” Balcon adds.