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Over the last fortnight, sustainable careers have been at the foreground of public discourse.
It is becoming clear that the UK needs a green job expansion. Only through an increase in fair, environmental jobs can we tackle the climate crisis.
And companies have long been adapting to these sustainable practices.
Customers now expect and demand sustainable approaches from companies. This means that businesses and industries are being held to account in ways they weren't before.
Employers are starting to understand that the youth have their eyes on green careers. And many of the discussions at COP26 reflected these priorities.
The future can and should be green. But do graduate interests and business practices align?
We've taken a look...
COP26 is the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, hosted in Scotland. Over the past fortnight, world leaders and activists have gathered in Glasgow to discuss their plans to tackle the climate crisis.
Countries are looking to build on 2015's Paris Agreement. Nations are now urgently outlining their improved ambitions as we continue to stray from global targets.
And the UK is determined to play its part.
UK companies are now required to outline their plans to adapt and become net zero by 2050. As well, a new International Sustainability Standards Board has been established to help regulate a new tighter set of regulations.
We spoke to Dominic Quennell, the Chief Executive of Enertechnos, who agrees that companies “'will need to demonstrate that they are walking the walk as well as talking the talk.” This includes things like “showing that they are running their business as cleanly as possible” and “not investing in or acting for industries with a high carbon footprint unless it is to help them to reduce it”.
Graduates could also provide businesses with an avenue to meeting these COP26 ambitions. Mr. Quennell notes how “younger people are really aware of problems such as micro-plastic pollution and I think they will avoid working for companies that make or distribute products that make the problems worse.”
Without the support of conscientious graduates, businesses may struggle.
As we move forward, we will see a surge in graduate environmental jobs. Without these, the COP26 aspirations will prove fruitless.
Green jobs are yet to be clearly defined. But, broadly, we group them as jobs that look to make a substantially positive impact on the environment.
The UK will need to recruit around 400,000 workers in the energy industry to meet its zero-carbon target, for example. Companies in all industries will also be looking to hire experts to assess their sustainability practices.
Mr. Quennell agrees, adding that “all companies must look at having ‘sustainability officer roles’” and that “all employees should be made aware of their impact on the environment and an internal carbon budget should be attached to every job.”
He goes on to add that “millions of people doing small things to reduce carbon emissions will have a massive impact”. Businesses need to align their goals with the goals of the planet.
But one of the main issues companies face is the green skills gap. Companies need to upskill to assure they're keeping pace with sustainable trends.
With research showing that hiring graduates could seriously help in closing the skill gap, it is important to ask whether employers and graduates are aligned when it comes to prioritising sustainability.
With green jobs on the rise, it is important to consider whether this demand will be met by graduate jobseekers.
We reached out to a past candidate, recently placed within the sustainability sector, for their green insights:
Why do you think young people are attracted to jobs in sustainability? What attracted you?
“I think there is real desire amongst young people to 'do good’ in every aspect of their lives - including their careers, not despite them.
As environmental education expands, especially on social media, younger people have started to appreciate the scale of collaboration needed, driving them to increasingly consider sustainable job roles.
With the consequence of environmental degradation and climate change disproportionately affecting the younger generation, there’s a sense of empowerment that comes with trying to have a direct impact on the situation we are faced with.”
What do you find most rewarding about working within sustainability?
“In being part of a mission larger than yourself or even your company, there’s a sense of collaboration and resource sharing that comes more naturally across the sector.
As awareness grows, there’s a conversation to be had about sustainability almost everywhere you look, so it’s rewarding to be developing genuinely valuable expertise.”
Correspondingly, The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey found that the majority of young people are indeed concerned about the climate crisis, with sustainability proving to be the top personal priority for 28% of participants.
Evidently, sustainability is a sought-after business ethos for the younger generation.
Given the eco-consciousness of young people, it makes sense for companies to aim to fill the green skills gap with the next generation of graduates.
However, it is important for businesses to understand that a green job does not automatically equate to a good job.
After all, sustainability is perceived to be a necessity, rather than a benefit.
When looking to hire graduates, employers must therefore view green jobs in a holistic manner:
Beyond the initial hiring process, going green also proves to be a key factor in employee retention.
As reported by the Millennial Survey, job loyalty increases when businesses address the climate crisis in meaningful ways, with young employees staying at such companies for at least five years.
With the promise of high job retention rates, it is also important that employers view their green hiring processes proactively.
Businesses ought to be taking initiative and reaching out to universities to excite students about green opportunities before they graduate.
The time to act is now!
It is clear that both employers and graduates envision sustainability to be at the forefront of future business practices.
The future can and should be green.
If you’re looking to adapt your hiring processes in the wake of COP26, get in touch and discover how we can add exceptional green talent to your team!