The message of a greener future has been echoed by environmental scientists and political leaders across the world. Green recovery packages have been introduced globally in a bid to stimulate economies following the economic fallouts from Covid-19. Globally, the business sector has also reinforced this message by establishing the ‘We Mean Business’ coalition. This aims to catalyse business leadership to act and deliver sustainable growth and prosperity for the world economy.
It is therefore of no surprise that the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) latest The Future of Jobs report has projected that in the mid-term, the 'jobs of tomorrow' will largely include a surge in demand for workers who can fill green economy jobs. But what are these ‘jobs of tomorrow’?
"As an executive search consultancy, we’re in a privileged position of having the inside track on how companies are thinking for the future. We can spot recruitment trends well ahead of the curve. Leaning on our cross-industry knowledge, we’ve identified some of the big changes we can expect to see in the talent sector as a result of green stimulus, sustainability efforts, and net-zero commitments."
Jamie Page, Managing Partner
For businesses to have different outcomes, it will require new behaviours and different mindsets. For this, diversity is needed. More specifically recruitment solutions focused on diversity of mindset and approach. Leaders and chief executives of today should be prepared to take a step back to listen to the views of others and make space for those who bring fresh perspectives and challenge the status quo. This business strategy may mean we see others stepping up and the makeup and structure of leadership shift from a rigid hierarchy to a more fluid and adaptable structure that balances experienced leadership with challenger mindsets.
A recent study from Consultancy UK has found that by the end of 2021, the environmental consulting industry for the UK alone will be worth over £2 billion. As with any increasingly lucrative sector, sustainability consultants are fulfilling an ever-increasing demand from businesses, which will only increase as we get closer to net zero emission deadlines. As a result, we are likely to see the roles of sustainability consultants become embedded in in-house positions and with their own departments.
In the last 10 months we’ve seen a marked increase in sustainability centric roles. Where previously we’ve appointed candidates for positions who simply oversee and deliver business objectives against environmental and sustainable goals, such as Health & Safety Officer, Project Director or General Manager, increasingly we are seeing senior leadership roles created where sustainability is their sole focus. Roles such as Chief Sustainability Officers (CSO), Heads of Sustainability, Sustainability managers, and Head of ESG are becoming established members of executive management teams as firms place greater strategic importance on stakeholder management and environmental sustainability.
The role of the formal CSO (or similar titles) is taking the lead in sustainable, eco-friendly initiatives in the countdown towards net zero. A number of companies are making it a point to take greater notice of sustainability issues and solutions such as switching to renewable energy and supporting projects which put infrastructure in place for a greener future.
There will be a renewed focus on those at executive level (from Supply Chain Managers to Chief Operating Officers) to drive initiatives that will ensure more accountability and transparency against environmental and social practices. Companies like Vodafone, for example, have recently announced that 20% of its supplier selection criteria will now be based on commitments to diversity and the environment.
“When we look at net zero, we have to create an accountable supply chain from those producing core elements to those transporting materials, all the way to those consulting, installing or manufacturing."
Richard Simpson, CEO at Watkins Jones Group
We discussed this topic with Richard Simpson, CEO at Watkins Jones Group - no stranger to complex supply chains - who agreed that more checks and balances are required...
“To do this you have to have people checking, approving and problem solving all parts of the supply chain to ensure it is working efficiently and therefore as sustainably as possible. That’s even at the implementation stage. Companies need to assess if they have the people in place to ensure the correct construction methodology is being followed."
Richard Simpson, CEO at Watkins Jones Group
Much like we saw with Industry 4.0 five years ago, a comprehensive understanding of data and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will be vital in the coming years. WEF’s latest The Future of Jobs report identified that there will be a surging demand for roles at the forefront of the data and AI economy.
The global economy is now starting to experience the benefits of Green AI applications, such as energy modelling for infrastructure optimisation and urban planning; utilising diverse data sources for environmental monitoring and targeted sustainability (bioacoustics, Internet of Things (IoT) water sensors, soil analysis, satellite imagery); and the acceleration of climate science ai research(physics emulators, climate forecasting, materials science)[i]. This means there will be a growing need for those at the executive level to not only understand ai systems but to also lead future departments dedicated solely to it.
[i]Themes of AI application highlighted at recent (virtually-hosted) International Conference on Learning Representations by Climate Change AI working group.
With the likes of BP and Equinor investing heavily in renewables, we are likely to see completely new roles developed at executive level. At the beginning of 2020, BP initiated a major leadership shake up, creating new business groups such as Gas & Low Carbon Energy, focused on reaching its net zero targets.
As companies within traditional sectors experience investor pressure and government mandates to clean up their act and change business models, we will likely see many of the roles of today be replaced and altered. Those sitting currently in these roles will be expected to adapt and change to meet new demands.
While we can point to specific roles that might be more commonplace in the next 5-10 years, the reality is that to look at future roles through the lens of today would be a mistake. The pace of change suggests that even new roles today will be different tomorrow. Instead, what companies should be focusing on is their approach to talent. In hiring, this means shifting the focus from qualifications to qualities. In a future driven by stakeholder value, these qualities are resilience, adaptability and a challenger mindset.
Richard Simpson summarised this neatly when he said:
“We need to create capability and have a responsible approach. We need leaders to not only be ESG champions but drive the net zero agenda, ensuring that responsible business is part of its DNA.”
For existing talent, this means preparing to listen, learn and grow. The climate agenda will see businesses faced with challenges they have never faced before. To rise to these challenges a shift in mindset and approach to talent is critical. And the reason to do so is simple: change or become obsolete.