IEMA: Urgent action needed to fill sustainability skills gap

The business world is facing a 'perfect storm' of rising energy costs, shrinking water supplies and extreme weather events - but these issues can only be mitigated by a workforce trained for the sustainable economy.

That is the message from the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA), which is today (10 December) launching an action plan at the House of Commons, urging businesses and Government to fill this sustainability skills gap.

“In short, the global economy is unsustainable and must be re-skilled to deliver economic, social and environmental systems that will address the global sustainability challenges already set in motion,” reads the report.

In October an IEMA survey found that a mere 13% of businesses are confident they have the skills to successfully compete in a modern sustainable economy. This is limiting companies’ ability to take advantage of the economic opportunities offered by more sustainable actions, says IEMA.

The action plan is part of a growing focus on modernising the skillset of the UK workforce; earlier this week David Cameron opened a new ‘College for Digital Skills’, saying that maths, science and technology are the key skills for a modern globalised economy. 

The Institute’s action plan features four key points:

1) Sustainability to be placed at the heart of decision making 

-“The next Government should ensure it spends time, in its first 100 days, setting out how it will deliver a sustainability culture across public policy.”

-“It is our view that a policy unit dedicated to enabling the sustainable economy must be established and sufficiently staffed to provide support across departments.”

2) Mainstreaming sustainability skills through training

-“We call for action to strengthen organisational and investor confidence in those delivering sustainability initiatives.”

– In particular, we call on organisations leading the sustainability agenda to collaborate with professional bodies, educators and training providers to ensure they are maximising their market influence.”

3) Collaborative systemic change

– “We call for greater emphasis to be placed on teaching approaches in schools, universities and further education. In particular, business schools and MBAs must ensure that sustainable thinking is a core part of their teaching.”

– We call for “enhanced collaboration between business, universities and training providers to ensure a workforce with the fundamental knowledge, practical skills and core behaviours needed to contribute to the delivery sustainable outcomes”

4) Embedding sustainability

– “Large organisations, including higher and further education establishments, must recognise it is in their interest to help support SMEs in planning the response they will take to the sustainable economy.”

 Brad Allen

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