Education Focus

30th August 2019

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  • CPD ,
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  • Sustainability


Catherine Silvester

Three organisations discuss their approach to sustainability training, and offer their insights into why it is so important

Climate crisis looms large over business; this summer alone, we have experienced record-breaking temperatures and high levels of rainfall. While this impacts our natural capital, businesses should also be futureproofing their financial and human capital resources. The environment is changing, and we must put sustainability at the heart of decision-making.

We must start to build the critical thinking needed to challenge the norms of day-to-day business and influence the way colleagues are making organisational decisions that impact sustainability goals.

IEMA is dedicated to helping you train your workforce, offering courses that will give people the knowledge that's crucial to kick-start behavioural change in your organisation. IEMA courses ensure:

  • Cost savings in waste, recycling and consumption
  • Advantage over competitors when tendering for business
  • Improved management of environmental risks
  • Demonstration of your commitment to improving the environment
  • Increase in employee engagement
  • Enhanced reputation.

IEMA's training portfolio is growing, both in terms of learner numbers and training partner coverage – particularly at international level. This is allowing multinational companies to demonstrate a benchmark for their UK and international employees to work towards. JCB, for example, has been training a dual management cohort in IEMA's Environmental Sustainability for Managers in the UK and India, through training partners NIST (India) and EEF (UK). This shows its commitment to enhancing knowledge and creating behavioural change. The expectation is to secure a more engaged management that can make positive contributions over time.

Every organisation's approach to training should be tailored to strategic outcomes, and IEMA's suite of courses are geared towards training and developing colleagues across a business, in order to increase sustainability knowledge at a grassroots level. Embedding sustainability awareness at a broad level is the key to change; as a result, environmental and QHSE managers, who lead the sustainability agenda in organisations, can achieve cross-business insight and buy-in.

Some organisations deliver this training in-house, which presents an opportunity to contextualise content and build team engagement; however, a significant proportion prefer to source training directly from an IEMA-accredited training partner. This ensures quality training, and access to the external trainer's broad experience. Both approaches have merit, and IEMA relationship managers are happy to discuss the options with you.

Further detail on the full portfolio of courses and training partners can be found at

Please contact [email protected] for further discussion.

This extract from the syllabus illustrates some of the core areas of learning from the Environmental and Sustainability Skills for Managers course:

1. The Learner will have knowledge and understanding of the main environmental and economic risks and opportunities

2. The Learner will have knowledge and understanding of compliance obligations and business drivers for change

3. The Learner will have knowledge and understanding of the main potential impacts on environment and sustainability

4. The Learner will have knowledge and understanding of how to improve environmental performance

5. The Learner will evaluate drivers for change and barriers

6. The Learner will apply knowledge and understanding to baselines data to monitor and improve performance

7. The Learner will apply knowledge of environmental sustainability across the value chain

8. The Learner will demonstrate the importance of implementing resource efficiency

9. The Learner will demonstrate how employees can improve environmental performance.

Q) As society starts to prioritise the environment, has training organisational workforces become business critical?

With climate change warnings forecasting billions of displaced people, food and water shortages, and large sections of the world rendered uninhabitable, you would expect environmental management training to be in demand. While we are seeing an increase, it is negligible, with many organisations still not seeing sustainability as an immediate business priority. The conflicting demands of profits, votes and political agenda delivery are of far more importance to some.

We initially offered environmental management training around 20 years ago, but it remains the poor cousin of health and safety. Most organisations still prioritise 'save the worker' over 'save the planet'. Having said this, increasing numbers of enlightened organisations are starting to take sustainability more seriously – it's still small-scale compared to health and safety, but hopefully the start of an accelerating trend. Encouragingly, a lot of new interest is coming from outside the UK, with significant growth over the past five years coming from the Middle East and North Africa – the places on the frontline when it comes to climate change.

“Public awareness is starting to put pressure on organisations“

Demand for health and safety training has been driven largely by regulation, and there is now a well-established body of legislation applicable to all organisations, large and small. And the 'occupational' precursor to health and safety clearly identifies it solely as a responsibility for organisations, with no responsibility for the population as a whole.

While the UK has a significant body of environmental legislation, it mainly covers control of pollution and the conservation and management of and – which will only have a major impact on larger organisations. Without the legislative imperative to train staff across all organisations, it will take a lot of effort to persuade many organisations to make the investment to improve their sustainability.

More significant are government policies seeking to enforce or encourage behavioural change: vehicle emissions, charges on disposable plastic bags, etc. Public awareness is starting to put pressure on organisations to do more to reduce their impact. Whether there is enough 'people power' to negate the need for legislation is yet to be seen.

Effective environmental management can be a real business plus, reducing costs and engaging employees. Saving the planet is a righteous action that most employees will buy into, and provides a good impression to external audiences. I assume the lack of demand for training is because we still have work to do to get these messages into the boardrooms.

Gary Fallaize, managing director RRC International

Q) How do you ensure your programmes equip graduates with the sustainability knowledge required for today's business agenda?

“The scenarios presented to students are real-life issues“

Within the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Liverpool, we strive for authentic assessments, ensuring our students are assessed in a way that aligns with real-life practice scenarios. In preparing the students with the study of environment and sustainability, we work closely with environmental practitioners. The scenarios presented to the students are real-life environmental and sustainability issues that challenge them to come up with solutions that would suit their clients. For example, in our module on environmental planning and management of projects, we have been working with The Mersey Forest as our client, looking at the Urban GreenUP project in which Liverpool City Council is participating.

The students have come up with suggestions that have influenced the overall plan for the project.

“The scenarios presented to students are real-life issues“

Furthermore, our teaching is cross-disciplinary; we provide a range of modules both natural science and social science-oriented to ensure students have the knack for working with stakeholders across the spectrum to understand how trade-offs need to be made. We also provide modules which teach students about the importance of translating their passion for sustainability in a real business scenario.

Modules such as Business and the Environment and Politics of the Environment give students a flair for the complexities of achieving sustainability, and train them to appreciate competing demands and achieve solutions for them.

Through some of the modules (such as Environmental Sustainability) we encourage students to look critically at their own campus and come up with solutions that can enhance our own sustainability. Our Guild of Students is also active in the field of sustainability and works with various programmes to incorporate research and training for the enhancement of campus sustainability.

Dr Urmila Jha-Thakur, environmental planning and management lecturer. Acting PGT director for the School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool

Q) Why is upskilling teams so important, and how is it impacting the company's strategic objectives?

ENGIE became an IEMA-approved training provider at the end of 2018 to deliver in-house training to employees, with the opportunity to provide training to customers' employees. We had previously provided training internally on a range of environmental topics and wanted to develop our provision. Becoming an IEMA-approved training provider has allowed us to deliver an inclusive course with a greater level of sustainability awareness and skills, as well as giving employees a qualification from a well-respected external body.

Our ambition is to lead the zero-carbon transition, making a lower carbon future possible for customers. The courses we deliver ensure our employees learn about the importance of this ambition, as well as gaining the skills to help them support our progress. The courses ensure employees are empowered to make positive change, as well as challenge unsustainable behaviours.

Delivery of training in-house allows us to tailor the course to our own policies and procedures and demonstrate how our business objectives and Responsible Business Charter align with our sustainable development goals, as well as supporting the environmental agenda. Self-delivery lets us arrange course dates to suit employees and the training is delivered at our offices across the UK – making them accessible for people working in different parts of our business. Another benefit of in-house training is that it is very cost effective.

The IEMA courses have received excellent feedback and those who have attended have thoroughly enjoyed the content. They have left with a greater awareness of how it is not just their own direct operations that can have an environmental impact, but also how the wider context and environmental sustainability impacts can be considered throughout the supply chain.

“The coursees ensure our employees are empowered to make change“

While the IEMA Environmental Sustainability Skills courses contain a lot of information, the resources are structured in a way that makes the content easily digestible and allows us the flexibility to use additional case studies and activities to make the content more relevant to our organisation.

We are now looking to develop our in-house training further around the IEMA training courses and believe this will help to further embed our purpose of improving lives through better working and living environments.

Ann Seymour, environment manager, Engie UK & Ireland

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Image credit: iStock


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