Published 8 months ago.
About a 4 minute read.
Image: Alena Darmel
35% of global sustainability leaders report difficulty hiring talent and upskilling execs with climate-change skills as a barrier to making faster progress on climate-action strategies.
Sustainability leaders at some of the world’s largest companies have warned that
the scarcity of talent trained around the challenges of climate change at both
operations and board level will be one of the largest barriers to achieving
their net-zero targets, according to recent research from EY.
EY surveyed 506 global Chief Sustainability Officers or equivalents from
businesses with at least $1 billion in annual revenues and analyzed the action
companies are taking to address climate change.
When asked to name the biggest obstacles to achieving net-zero carbon emissions
by 2050, more than a third (35 percent) of all companies surveyed say difficulty
retaining or upskilling talent on climate change is a top internal barrier to
doing more on climate change; and 28 percent say difficulty hiring talent with
climate change skills is a key external barrier. Similarly, 31 percent believe
that a lack of climate-change expertise at board and senior-management level is
a ‘top three’ internal barrier preventing their organization from prioritizing
and actioning their net-zero strategy.
Yet it does not appear to be a priority area for investment. Only 23 percent of
survey respondents list human resources and talent as one of their top three
climate investments (though the percentage rose to 50 percent in the UK); and
just 27 percent have completed plans to hire or upskill talent to acquire
climate change expertise.
“As our economy transitions towards net zero, demand for employees with
sustainability expertise will only rise across industries — from engineers with
the skillset to decarbonize heat, power and transport; to financial-services
personnel who understand how to accurately assess and price risk for new forms
of environmental assets,”
Rob Doepel, EY UK&I’s Managing Partner
for Sustainability. “However, businesses are also recognizing that environmental
expertise at a leadership level could make the difference to whether their
company thrives or flounders in the new green economy. While many remain
confident in reaching their targets, there is an underlying concern that a lack
of sustainability expertise, particularly at a leadership level, could stall
business net-zero ambitions.”
As EY points
this presents a significant opportunity for companies to accelerate
transformation from within. As organizations work to embed sustainability across
all functions (for more on this front, Transform to Net Zero's new
can be a great starting point), they will need education, capacity-building and
knowledge-sharing; and a tailored strategy for developing the skillsets they
need. EY cites AB InBev as an example: The brewing
giant has reportedly begun building climate analytics and data-science
capabilities internally to support its climate actions; it views social- and
behavioral-science capabilities as the key to engaging
and communities more deeply on climate in the future; and the company continues
to build a “team of teams” with training in the foundations of climate and
As Business Insider
in 2021, demand from both
has led business schools in the
to expand core courses and flagship MBA programs to better include the issue of
sustainability. But as the Financial Times pointed
out in 2022,
despite the increased attention and demand for graduates who understand and are
equipped to help businesses tackle climate-related
academia is still catching up — schools are still working out how to define and
prioritize the disparate skills and values associated with sustainability- and
climate-related work; how to integrate them into teaching, research and
operations; and the extent to which a failure to do so will undermine the future
of business education.
Though climate change and the work urgently needed to address it remain
here in the US, young people recognize that climate change is going to shape
their futures — and they need climate
in order to develop the skills to do anything about it. Thankfully, more and
are working to ensure the next generation of consumers, workers and business
leaders begins understanding climate change and all its risks from an early age.
Published Jun 12, 2023 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST