The Green Agenda is everyone’s responsibility

A commitment to ‘green’ training now, says Antoine Poincaré is the only way companies can hope to meet their carbon reduction targets

There’s a great preoccupation with the role of smart digital technologies in the workforce of the future, and the impact this will have on the make-up of businesses and next-generation careers. Yet there is another critical trend that employers and prospective employees need to prepare for now, and that’s delivering the green agenda. 

Over the next 10 years, everyone in an organisation – whether they work in marketing, operations, R&D, supply chain, sales or purchasing – will need to be educated and empowered so that they can each make a tangible, proactive contribution to carbon reduction.

It is the only way that companies will be able to meet their own obligations as businesses. It is also an essential consideration as employers strive to stay relevant and appealing as a place of work in the battle to attract and hold on to talent.

Green action is now a pre-requisite for recruitment

Recent research from the BBC notes that younger workers have higher ‘eco-anxiety’ than those who joined the workforce before them. And that was before the searing heat of August 2022. For Generation Z, the fear that crunch time has arrived feels very real, and their expectations of governments, employers and individuals to actively make a difference is felt sharply in their responses to surveys, their involvement in campaigns, and the choices they make every day.

For Generation Z, the fear that crunch time has arrived feels very real, and their expectations of governments, employers and individuals to actively make a difference is felt sharply

As potential recruits, Generation Z candidates are acutely sensitive to an organisation’s Green policies. In the BBC survey, two thirds said that they were more likely to work for a company with strong environmental policies. Related findings from global recruitment firm Robert Walters not only confirm this, but suggest that a third of UK office workers would go so far as to refuse a job offer if an organisation’s environmental, sustainability or climate control values did not align with their own. And, in this era of social media/Glassdoor employer transparency and ESG reporting, glib promises and half-hearted measures by companies are all too readily exposed, so employers need to be on the front foot.

Encouragingly, many companies have already seen the signs and are stepping up their activities. The next challenge is to bring all employees along on that journey, so that each person plays an active role – not just in doing what’s asked of them, but in seeking out new ways to make a positive difference, as part of the jobs people do every day – from the materials being purchased and their journey through the supply chain, to the way buildings and resources are managed.

Pre-skilling, upskilling and re-skilling

So how should employers approach this huge ‘green L&D’ programme? 

There’s a useful framework for building a strategic roadmap which is now being adopted by a number of companies in building their ‘green L&D’ roadmap – it’s called “1h/10h/100h”. 

It’s based on the premise that, initially, everyone in the company will need to receive at least one hour of learning (say, per year) on green topics, to build awareness. This is with a view to creating a ‘sustainable culture’ over time. We can also think of this as the pre-skilling phase.

Upskilling will be required in many cases, too. Here, we can expect a whole range of people across the organisation to spend at least 10 hours over a given period on learning new skills within their existing role (e.g. triple bottom line for accountants; how to avoid greenwashing for marketing and communications teams; green regulation for finance people; and so on). 

Many others will require reskilling, as they prepare to assume a new role (perhaps because their former role has become redundant). This could be achieved via workshops or bootcamps. For a job in high demand, 100 hours may be sufficient (companies can finish the training in house). To re-skill teams for a digital future, this might be a bootcamp on how to become a developer, can be achieved within a single ‘event’. 

Making a more strategic shift

As well as scoping, devising and rolling out appropriate L&D programmes, companies will also need to plan for and manage the transition to greener processes and sourcing alternatives, and consider and mitigate any associated risks – such as higher costs or changing safety profiles – all of which will require a lot of thought, debate and specific training. 

All of this adds up to a huge L&D mission over the next decade. And, of course, the climate crisis will continue to have an increasing impact in the meantime, leaving colleagues across HR working overtime as they review acceptable office/site and commute temperatures, among other rising priorities. 

More strategically still, we’ll see entire business and marketing models continuing to be turned upside down, as the ‘ethics’ of promoting continuous consumption, road use and air travel more obviously jars with carbon reduction commitments. This will prompt new approaches to products and profit-making – again a cause for retraining as teams reframe their goals and skills.

Demonstrable environmental sustainability is a significant agenda for any business to deliver, so it’s vital that employers start thinking and planning for this, and the part played by their workforce, today.

Antoine Poincaré is VP of Climate School, the e-learning arm of sustainable insurance company AXA Climate

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