· Features

The business case for green skills

Environment is now (rightly so) a strategic issue for all businesses, but that does not mean that it is universally understood.


At a time when the changing climate is forcing us to shift the way we all do business, the hard facts are that resources are scarcer, energy costs are rising and stakeholder expectations are changing. And with new environmental reporting requirements from the Companies Act and mandatory greenhouse gas reporting being introduced this year alone, these have put environment at the heart of governing policy and at the core of business operations. 

Environment is now a key area for business - strategically and operationally it delivers a sustainable business for a sustainable future. And due to the complexity of the natural environment and the range of challenges it presents, every organisation requires specialist green skills - the unique knowledge and competencies of qualified environment professionals who areon board to turn challenges into opportunities. It is here HR can demonstrate leadership by ensuring that their organisation benefits from people with the right skills.

UK Plc has revealed that there are some real leaders in making the environment work hard for businesses, where threats are being transformed into advantages through inventive measures and innovative thinking. But largely, UK business is experiencing a green skills gap; environmental issues that challenge business such as waste, energy and resource shortages, combined with the ability to identify business opportunities, knowledge of environmental regulations, and the drive and the communication skills to implement this knowledge across organisations.  

Qualified and experienced environment professionals have this unique set of skills, and their quest to save resources means that they can also save your business money. For example I met an environment manager recently who had saved his business £300,000 in one year by applying his environmental knowledge, business sense and communication skills. Figures like that make it hard to dispute the unique value of green skills. 

Environment is making huge strides in transforming businesses from within, yet there is still much to do.  For organisations to ensure they are fully prepared for environmental challenges they not only need qualified professionals but they need to also look at upskilling the whole of their workforce.  Companies such as Royal Mail, BAE Systems and Wilkinsons are embedding green skills throughout their operations - like green writing through a stick of rock - by training their staff using courses like the recently launched All Jobs Greener package which allows organisations throughout the world to provide relevant environmental training across their whole workforce. 

UK Plcs are becoming recognised around the globe as leaders in environmental innovation, ensuring that their businesses remain competitive and sustainable. But many more need to follow suit if they are to be ready to meet and defeat the climate, supply and financial challenges that are already a reality. Effective investment, recruitment and development of environmental skills is the only way that business will have a future to operate in. I guarantee that our own jobs count on it. 

Tim Balcon is CEO of IEMA, the environmental professional body