Businesses 'must close the skills gap' to survive sustainable economy

A mere 13% of businesses are confident they have the skills to successfully compete in a sustainable economy, according to a new survey by the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA).

The research suggests that businesses' ability to compete is being compromised by a lack of environment and sustainability skills

The research suggests that businesses' ability to compete is being compromised by a lack of environment and sustainability skills

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The research, incorporating more than 900 businesses, suggests that their ability to compete is being compromised by a lack of environment and sustainability skills, with 65% of companies claiming they hadn't even carried out a strategic evaluation of the skills needed.

Only 25% of leaders are fully capable of addressing the sustainability agenda and in 72% of organisations, investment in environment and sustainability skills is less than for other disciplines, with 63% of businesses spending less than £100 per head on environmental training each year.

Minding the gap

Also highlighted in the report is the high proportion of companies - 53% - that are unable to recruit environment and sustainability professionals with the right skills.In an interview with edie in April, two sustainability professionals suggested that a skills gap among those driving sustainability within their businesses is partly to blame for the lack of acceleration towards a green economy.

IEMA chief executive Tim Balcon agrees. Commenting on the survey's findings, Balcon said: "Environmental and sustainability skills are fundamental to ensuring that the global economy, and every business in the world, can survive.

"Governments, businesses, industries and professions worldwide need to work together to set in place a new skills framework that will equip organisations to survive and thrive in the face of these inescapable challenges."

IEMA has brought together a growing number of businesses, organisations and individuals including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, EDF Energy, EY and Saint-Gobain in a campaign - "Preparing for the Perfect Storm: Skills for a Sustainable Economy" - to emphasise the importance of investing in new skills.

Skills frameworkAs part of the campaign IEMA laid out a skills framework for businesses which includes the need for an increased environment and sustainability knowledge and understanding for all workers and the importance of integrating environment and sustainability into the national curriculum, ensuring that young people entering work are able to play their part at the start of their careers.

In an interview with National Union of Students (NUS) senior project officer Jesse Scharf in April, edie revealed that today's students want to gain employment with companies which truly value the importance of sustainability.

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