2 months ago -

The Heart of Sustainability: Prioritizing People in the Green Revolution

Blog 2024 (5)

Chances are, if I were to ask you to close your eyes and picture a green job, images of majestic wind turbines, solar farms, or electric vehicles (EV) may come to mind. Undoubtedly, glossy marketing around business sustainability often invokes those stereotypical images.

However, our latest ManpowerGroup Global Insights white paper, “Building Competitive Advantage with A People-First Green Business Transformation,” finds that the coming wave of over 30 million projected new green jobs globally in the next decade will encompass far more than renewables and EVs.

While those industries are certainly part of the picture, many existing roles will evolve to become sustainable and entirely new careers that either currently don’t exist or are in their infancy will also emerge. For example, consider a carpenter constructing with eco-friendly materials, or an “edible design engineer” creating biodegradable packaging that leaves no waste when consumed.

As sustainability transforms businesses large and small, people and talent will remain at the heart of this shift more than any single technology. With reskilling and redevelopment, workers in diverse occupations will form the backbone of green progress and innovation for years to come. The human element powers the technology, not the other way around.

So rather than getting distracted by visions of turbines or solar panels, the most crucial component underpinning the acceleration to net-zero is us. Because, at the core of any successful business transformation lies the indispensable involvement of people. Individuals driving change, steering strategy, and propelling the future through their skills and labor each day.

 

The People Powering the Green Future

The green transition is no longer a vision of the future; it's unfolding right before our eyes. Already, 70% of employers say they are currently or actively planning to recruit green talent. Yet, despite the demand, only 1 in 8 workers (15%) currently have more than one green skill. This exponential shortage leaves companies urgently competing for the few skilled candidates that exist. At the same time, employers cited finding qualified candidates (44%), creating effective reskilling programs (39%), and identifying transferable skills (36%) as the top barriers to execute green transitions.

Excitement about the green future is coupled with genuine concerns; worries about roles becoming obsolete, fears of being left behind without acquiring new technical skills quickly. Even amongst the more optimistic group, unease lingers. Our research found 70 of white-collar workers say they are ready to embrace the green transition, compared to 57% of their blue-collar peers. While more than half sounds optimistic, this enthusiasm gap shows nearly half have concerns, which could severely slow sustainability initiatives.

It's important to not ignore the voices and concerns of frontline and blue-collar workers who feel deeply apprehensive about how these seismic job changes may undermine their job security and livelihoods.

 

Without proper communication, change management and inclusion from the outset, lack of understanding risks disengagement or lack of buy-in from the very people needed to make this transition succeed. But done right, with people put first, the green revolution represents a phenomenal opportunity for upskilling, talent retention, and attraction for people in every industry and sector. This potential for growth spans both white and blue-collar roles across various functions.

 

Bringing People Along for the Journey

Leading companies recognize that recruiting alone won't solve the challenges in a tight talent market. Instead, they are investing heavily in customized pre-, re-, and upskilling programs. These initiatives not only show employees how their roles will evolve but also illuminate the new green responsibilities they'll take on, presenting exciting career development opportunities on the horizon while building competencies internally.

 

From automotive technicians needing updated diagnostics capabilities for electric vehicle issues to electrical engineers requiring rapid reskilling on leading battery storage system design and safety practices. For factory workers and operators, cross-training on end-to-end cell manufacturing best practices is essential as global production scales exponentially to meet demand.

 

Getting this transformation wrong, by neglecting to invest in the existing workforce, risks high turnover and an inability to adopt new green technology rapidly enough to meet customer and regulatory pressures. Conversely, companies embracing transparency and upskilling inclusively position themselves for optimal retention, productivity, innovation, and market share.

 

The Vital Role of Perception & Messaging

Authentic messaging is pivotal during times of uncertainty and change. Clear communication of evolving sustainability commitments and visible environmental actions positively influences 60% of candidates in their job considerations. This approach particularly resonates with purpose-driven talent, as 66% of Gen Z and 64% of Millennials believe sustainability efforts will enhance their work.

 

However, perception gaps exist between how committed employees think their company’s leadership is to be going green versus the bold net-zero targets set. This discrepancy underscores the absolute imperative of authenticity in showcasing sustainability progress.

 

Powering the Future Together

Government, investors, consumers, academia, and businesses all play complementary roles in enabling an equitable and responsible transition for workers. Essential to this is smart labor policy funding for transferable skills training for displaced roles. Companies leading the green charge must make comprehensive reskilling accessible across all demographic groups.

 

Most critically, every employer needs to bring their people along by communicating with empathy, upskilling inclusively, and putting talent first every step of the way. Because at its heart, powering the future green economy reliably relies on empowering the people who make it possible.

 

The future of business – and our planet – depends on getting this transition right. Download the full “Building Competitive Advantage with A People-First Green Business Transformation” white paper now and take the first step by understanding the people priorities at the heart of green business transformation.