VIDEO: Skills gap a major barrier to accelerating green economy

EXCLUSIVE A skills gap in those driving sustainability within their businesses is partly to blame for the lack of acceleration towards a green economy, according to two leading sustainability professionals. Scroll down for video.

In an exclusive interview with edie today at Sustainability Live in Birmingham, Mitchells & Butlers head of energy and environmental management Richard Felgate and UPS’ director of sustainability EMEA Peter Harris both agreed that there was a fundamental need for those driving corporate sustainability to have a clear understanding of core business.

Felgate said: “There is such a compelling business case for [sustainability] that you do ask yourself why more people aren’t motivated”.

Felgate said the role of the corporate sustainability professional requires a “whole multitude of skills”.

“It’s not enough to just have the technical skills or behavioural skills, you need to have a fundamental core business skill because what you’ve got is a really good business proposition and you need to be able to put that across to the people in your business that make the decisions,” Felgate said.

“You need to understand what your financial director is thinking and what your operations people are thinking and you need to be able to talk to them about any concerns they might have. You then need to be able to put [sustainable development] across in a way where it’s a compelling argument,” he added.

In Felgate’s experience, many corporate sustainability agendas are struggling because of this lack of business understanding. “It’s not because they haven’t got a good idea, they just don’t know how to bring it across to the board”.

Harris agreed, saying it was necessary to have a whole range of generalist skills and to be able to touch on different facets of the business before making the business case for sustainability projects.

“It’s relatively simple if you’re talking about a straight forward energy efficiency project where you can actually work out in a spreadsheet the financial returns of the project but it’s much harder when you get into areas that are essentially associated with mitigating risks and capitalising on opportunities.

“This is because you’re then talking about what is the financial value to the brand or to regulatory leadership and that is much tougher to quantify,” added Harris.

Leigh Stringer

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