Employers Worldwide Clamoring for ESG-Skilled Workers

August 8, 2022 by Kate Michael
Employers Worldwide Clamoring for ESG-Skilled Workers
Cornell University (Photo by Emily Xie via UnSpalsh)

WASHINGTON — More than seven in 10 employers are looking to hire talent for sustainability related initiatives over the next two years according to a study by NTUC LearningHub, which also found that the demand for specialized talent in the environmental space is outpacing that of the social and governance arms of sustainability.

“Sustainability is a very new concept for many companies,” said Tay Ee Learn, director of Technical Skills Product Division at NTUC, a continuing education and training provider in Singapore, in a press release. 

“With the growing call to integrate sustainable practices into business models, companies will inevitably be looking for talent to help them develop products or adopt new technologies to support their sustainable initiatives.”

Companies are increasingly committing themselves to environmental, social and corporate governance principles and targets, but these commitments now need to go further towards taking real action, and the transition required may be stalled at a skills gap. Because while the field of ESG matures and demand for talent in sustainability intensifies, it remains particularly difficult to find qualified personnel. 

NTUC’s survey of 200 business leaders across different industries in Singapore is echoed by companies in the U.S. that admit American businesses are also battling for ESG talent.

A 2020 CFA Institute report also identified a skills mismatch between ESG needs and workers in the finance sector, as just one example. 

In order to move forward with ESG goals, businesses are looking to embed those sustainability strategies into their broader growth strategies as well as ongoing business operations, but it takes problem solving, critical thinking and creativity. 

In fact, according to NTUC’s survey, the top three skills related to sustainability that employers say would be useful for their organization are environment and social governance (44%), followed by carbon footprint management (40%) and sustainable business strategies (39%). 

In addition to domain knowledge in sustainability, business leaders also consider the value critical core skills can bring in the development of sustainability initiatives, regardless of sector or job roles. The top three critical core skills include problem solving (52%), creative thinking (44%) and collaboration (44%).

“Employers could consider recruiting new talent or developing their current workforce by equipping them with the right skills,” Tay Ee Learn said. “For job seekers, they can ride on this emerging trend and enroll in relevant training courses to equip themselves with the necessary skills as companies embarking on their sustainability journey will be starting to look for talents in this space.”

Since businesses are starting to think more holistically about sustainability, these findings suggest that it would behoove anyone planning for their career to include a focus on sustainability, but especially those in professional services — from accounting to supply chain management, risk management and innovation.

Universities like Harvard, Cornell, and the Warwick Business School have begun to offer “green MBA” programs to better prepare graduates to take on a range of sustainability challenges, and prepare workers to meet the specialized talent needs of companies worldwide.

Despite these new programs, however, the immediate skills shortage remains very real and might prevent or hamper the achievement of ESG goals. 

Kate can be reached at [email protected]

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