According to one research conducted by Linkedin per The Future of Jobs Report 2023, three of the top ten fastest growing job postings on their platform are in the sustainability field.
Specifically, offers relating to: Sustainability Analyst, Sustainability Specialist and Sustainability Manager recorded, between 2018 and 2022, respectively, an average annual growth of 45%, 42% and 40%. The jobs in question are defined “Green Jobs'', and this trend seems to be confirmed at least until 2027.
What factors have contributed to creating the need for new professional figures and renewed skills? What are, and will be, the most requested roles? What is the response of the new generations? These are some of the topics that we will explore in the course of the article.
“Green Jobs”: The Jobs Of The Future
Before proceeding with the discussion, it may be useful to define what is meant by green jobs. An umbrella term that is encountered more and more often and to which different meanings and multiple facets can be attributed.
Trying to intertwine the different definitions provided by certainly more authoritative sources (for example Unioncamere and UNEP), we can describe Green Jobs as those jobs, operating in traditional or green sectors, which deal with guide organizations towards the growing challenges of sustainability, contributing significantly to the environmental protection and restoration, together with the increase in company performance.
Although at first glance this combination may seem like an oxymoron, in reality, according to reports such as Greenitaly, green oriented businesses are confirmed to be more competitive, while the Green Jobs are configured as strategic drivers for the development of modern industries.
Jobs of the future which are going to play a fundamental role, as evidenced by the constant development of demand for new professional figures. According to Linkedin data, in fact, the rate of hiring of Green Jobs is growing steadily, with the exception of the year 2020 characterized by the outbreak of the pandemic from COVID-19. Furthermore, from 2019, grows more than the overall hiring rate.
This can be explained by the confluence of several factors:
Investments by companies to implement the ecological transition
Aligning to ESG standards (If you want to learn more about the topic: here's how becoming a Pure Air Zone can help you to achieve your ESG goals)
Fight against climate change and consequent adaptation
A growing awareness of consumers and workers regarding sustainability issues
What Are The Most Demanded Green Jobs And What Do They Do?
As already indicated in the introduction, among the top ten job advertisements with the fastest growth between 2018 and 2022 there are 3 Green Jobs: Sustainability Specialists, Sustainability Analysts e Sustainability Managers. Furthermore, this trend is expected to continue over the next five years.
Given the relative youth of this sector and its constant evolution, Jobs titles often overlap and are used to indicate roles that are, in reality, very similar to each other and which don’t present significant differences.
In general, those who occupy these positions have the task of improving business processes and models from a sustainable perspective. They identify and suggest sustainable operating strategies concerning various
aspects, such as the consumption reduction, optimization of resources, energy efficiency and waste management.
As for the role of Sustainability Consultant, which on many occasions seems to overlap with that of Sustainability Specialist, the tasks tend to focus more on:
- Verifying company compliance with international guidelines and principles regarding sustainability and with ISO standards
- Review and compilation of sustainability reports, as well as including ESG due diligence activities.
Recently, a Deloitte study investigated what are the most important functions that the Sustainability Manager must carry out, what skills he must possess, and what roles he must interface with. What emerges is an almost total disagreement on these issues between companies and professionals in the sector.
According to the companies interviewed, the Sustainability Manager should mainly deal with activities in the field of Research and Development, innovation and business impact on the territory and the community of belonging. The ultimate goal is to transform the business model,presenting products and services that are able to integrate the interests of the community and the territory.
In order to best perform their duties, a mix between technical skills related to sustainability, communication and listening skills and, to a lesser extent, knowledge of the specific sector of the company, is needed.
Again according to the companies interviewed, these figures should relate strategically with the area of Human Resources, Research and Development and Communication and Marketing.
The professionals who hold this role, on the other hand, have a different opinion. According to their opinion, main tasks to be fulfilled are those relating to optimization of production, reducing the consumption of resources with a view to energy efficiency, in order to mitigate its impact on the outside. Focus it is however, therefore, at inside the company and the dialogue with the external environment go to the background.
On this occasion, the activities of drawing up sustainable reports or managing the standards for getting/maintaining sustainability certifications are not mentioned. Functions that are instead attributed to the Sustainability Managers by the companies.
Core competencies to best play their role are, of course, verticals in the field of sustainability,followed by a few percentage points from competencies in the specific sector of the company.In third place are indicated strategic and long-term vision skills. Communication and listening skills are considered to a much lesser extent at the expense, for example, of economic and managerial skills which, on the contrary, have been almost totally neglected by the corporate sample.
Generally, the framework of competences offered by Sustainability Managers is a lot more variegated compared to that presented by the organizations.
Finally, it is of vital importance to interact directly with the owners, the Top Management and the Board of Directors. Dialogue with human resources and production stays in the background.The marketing and communication division is not seen as a key interlocutor.
However, there is a substantial agreement between the parties regarding the growing importance that the role of Sustainability Manager will acquire within the next 5 years. This confirms the previously reported data-driven sustainable labor market trends.
Green Jobs Between Reskilling And Upskilling
Sustainability, understood in its general meaning, changes the scenario and inevitably requires new actors with new skills, or at least remodulate them. Within the "Annual strategy for sustainable growth 2021" - programmatic document of the "European Green deal" - there was explicitly indicated the need to undertake a path of reskilling and upskilling to implement a sustainable and competitive development model. A commitment that the EU personally takes on through the "European Agenda for skills, sustainable competitiveness, social equity and resilience".
According to the forecasts of the European Commission, the gradual transition towards a low-carbon economy will generate 1 million new jobs,while around 120 million European citizens will have to reshape their skills or retrain.
Furthermore, the Commission itself is committed to the proliferation of green skills through 5 main actions:
Definition of a taxonomy of green skills for the statistical monitoring of the ecological characteristics of the various professions.
Collaboration with Member States to establish indicators that allow the monitoring and statistical analysis of skills related to sustainability.
Creating a European Green Skills Framework which outlines the various levels of ecological competence for education on climate change, environmental issues, energy transition and sustainable development.
Development of key skills related to sustainability for the labor market,promoting training in all economic sectors, and creating a new generation of professionals oriented towards climate, environment and health.
Mainstreaming environmental and climate considerations at all levels of education, including schools, higher education, vocational training and specific courses, with a particular attention to the urgent need to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills through educational paths, especially among young women.
To fill this gap it is necessary for two reasons:
- As highlighted also in the course of the discussion there will be an increasing number of professionals who will see their work change towards a Green dimension.
- Green Jobs will evolve, requiring deeper and more extensive green skills.
The 3 sectors that most need green skills are buildings, automotive and transport and, finally, tourism.
So if on the one hand, there continues to be an increase in the supply of green jobs (by 15.2% between February 20220 and February 2023) to the detriment of overall hiring which has instead suffered a decline, on the other hand there has not been a commensurate growth in the skills necessary to fill these positions. It is in this direction you need to go now.
Can Young People Fill This Gap?
Despite the divide described in the previous paragraph, the new generations seem to show a particular interest in sustainability issues 360°and the protection of the planet. Just think that according to research by GreenBizz 86% of millennials would prefer, even in the face of a lower salary, to work in an environment that cares about sustainability and inclusion.
Indeed, I'll tell you more, still the same research, estimates that about 2 out of 3 young people prefer to give up working for companies that do not pay attention to environmental sustainability.
The interest of the new generations and the need to impart new and greater green skills is demonstrated by the 2023/2024 academic offer. There are 20 new courses related to sustainability.
It is therefore hoped that, given the growing demand for work in the sector, combined with a greater interest, present and future green workers can acquire that set of hard and soft green skills needed to fill the skills gap and lead companies in the ecological transition.
To wrap things up
We have noticed that according to data-driven forecasts, the world of work is gradually shifting its axis towards issues of environmental sustainability. Green Jobs are among the most requested jobs of the next few years, and even to carry out traditional jobs there will be a need to acquire new green skills.
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