To meet today’s global sustainability challenges, business needs more than a few Chief Sustainability Officers – it needs an army of employeesin all sectors of business, who think about sustainability in their decisions every day.
That means product designers, supply managers, economists, scientists, architects and many others with the knowledge to both recognize unsustainable practices and find ways to improve sustainability for the overall health of their companies and the planet.
Employers are increasingly looking for these skills. We analyzed vacancies from a global database and noted a tenfold increase in the number of jobs with “sustainability” in the title over the past decade, to 177,000 in 2021.
What is worrying is that there are not enough skilled workers to meet the rapid growth of available green and sustainable jobs.
While the numbergreen jobs” grew by one globally rate of 8% per year over the past five years, the number of people reporting only green skills in their profile grew by 6% per year, according to a LinkedIn analysis of its nearly 800 million users.
As professors who train future workers in sustainability principles and techniques, we see several effective ways for people at all stages of their careers to acquire these skills and grow their numbers.
Where sustainable jobs grow fastest
In the US, jobs are in the renewable energy and environment sectors, grew by 237% in the past five years. The transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy is expected to result in global… a net increase in the number of jobs for the energy sector.
But green jobs go far beyond the installation of solar panels and the maintenance of wind turbines.
Sustainable fashion is one of the fastest growing green job sectors, with an average of 90% growth rate annually between 2016 and 2020.
The rapid expansion of ESG investing – environmental, social and governance – and portfolio management is opening up new jobs in the sustainable finance sector. In 2021, accounting firm PwC announced it would invest and create $12 billion 100,000 new jobs in ESG investing in 2026.
There is also a growing demand for urban sustainability officers who can help cities transition to carbon neutrality and become more resilient. After all, the world adds Every five days, 1 million people move to cities And building urban areas worth 20,000 American football fields every day somewhere on the planet.
In 2013, then the Rockefeller Foundation launched 100 resilient cities, a network to help cities become more sustainable, few cities had a resilience or sustainability officer. Today, more than 250 communities and 1,000 local government professionals are part of the Network of urban sustainability directors.
The number of companies with chief sustainability officers Also in leadership positions tripled from 9% to 28% between 2016 and 2021. But given the scale and business opportunities of sustainabilityThese skills are needed much more broadly within organizations.
So where can you find training?
Most sustainability and green jobs require creative problem solving, synthesis and innovation technical skills. Some of these skills can be learned on the job, but so will increasing the pool of qualified applicants require more effective and accessible training options that focus on the needs of employers. Here are some training resources to consider.
University programs: Sustainability is increasingly integrated into a wide range of university courses. Fifteen years ago, sustainability training was mainly ad hoc; a product designer or economist might have taken a sustainability approaches course in the environmental sciences department. Nowadays American universities do approximately 3,000 programs labeled ‘sustainability’, compared to 13 in 2008.
A National Academies report recommends seeking a competency-based approach to sustainability education, combining content with skills and linking knowledge with action to solve problems and develop solutions.
Micro references: For mid-career employees who don’t have time To reinvest in full-fledged degrees, short courses and micro-credentials offered by universities, colleges or professional groups offer a way to develop sustainability skills.
A micro-credential may involve taking a series of courses or workshops focused on a specific skill, such as in the field of wind energy technology or how to integrate ESG criteria in business operations.
Short courses and micro-credentials take less time and are much cheaper than university courses. That can help too lower income individuals training for sustainability jobs and diversifying the field.
Specializations: A similar option is job-focused online certificate programs with a sustainability specialization.
For example, Google partnered with universities to offer online courses for project managers, and Arizona State University offers one specialization in sustainability to guide it. Project management is an area where the US Department of Labor expect rapid job growth 100,000 vacancies in the next decade.
Integrating sustainability into all functions of companies will require some level of sustainability training and understanding for most, if not all, employees. Companies like Starbucks, HSBC, Sales team And Microsoft have created internal training programs to spread sustainability knowledge and practice within their companies, not just to employees with sustainability in their titles.
Closing the gap
A recent one research from Microsoft and BCG of large companies found that only 43% of corporate sustainability professionals had a sustainability degree, and 68% of sustainability leaders were hired internally.
It is clear that sustainability training and on-the-job training will be necessary to fulfill the growing number of positions within companies.
To close the sustainability skills gap, we believe more training will be needed – at colleges and universities, by professional organizations and by employers. Achieving global sustainability and meeting climate change challenges will become more likely as legions of people dedicate their working hours to sustainability solutions.