IEMA talk diversity and green skills at Net Zero Festival 2023

31st October 2023

IEMA CEO, Sarah Mukherjee MBE, and director of policy and public affairs, Ben Goodwin, spoke to packed audiences at BusinessGreen’s Net Zero Festival 2023 today.

The two-day festival brings thousands of senior business executives, investors, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and campaigners together in Central London to explore how best to navigate the net-zero transition.

Mukherjee was joined by the writer and broadcaster, Lucy Siegle, and founder of the Women In Sustainability Network, Rhian Sherrington, for a session on ‘the role of business in fostering diversity and inclusion in sustainability teams’.

She warned that much of the progress made on net zero could be lost if we fail to engage people from diverse backgrounds, explaining: “I think we have a fundamental problem, because we are very good at talking to each other, without talking to disengaged communities.

“This fragile consensus we have could be gone within an election if enough people think ‘this is a load of rubbish and just a load a posh white people talking to each other and making me poorer’. Reframing it around jobs is absolutely crucial.”

Mukherjee (L), Sherrington (C), Siegle (R)

Mukherjee also highlighted the need for companies to be sensitive to people’s different cultural experiences, and ensure that all staff feel their voices are heard.

“Allyship is incredibly important,” she explained. “If you sit in a meeting and you are not aware of where the power is flowing, it is often flowing around to the same old people all the time.

“It’s about looking at body language, and making sure everyone in the room has been given the chance and agency to speak.”

The conversation then turned to neurodiversity, with Mukherjee revealing that IEMA plans to launch a new group to support people next year.

“We often say ‘go and network, go into a big room with lots of people shouting at each other, with lots of loud music’, but if you are neurodiverse, that can be horrible. We can help people through their careers in a way that is supportive,” she continued.

“We are going to set up a group next year hopefully under the Diverse Sustainability Initiative for people in the environment sector who are neurodiverse, because it is a completely different set of challenges – but that diversity is gold dust for an organisation.”

This comes after IEMA’s director of policy and public affairs, Ben Goodwin, held a workshop on ‘bridging the net-zero skills gap’ earlier in the day.

Goodwin talks ‘bridging the net-zero skills gap'

He took questions from sustainability professionals working across a range of sectors, including energy, food and transport, many of which expressed their concerns around a lack of green skills.

To help allay these fears, Goodwin explained how IEMA has recently launched its Green Careers Hub, providing businesses and individuals with all the information they need on green skills and potential career pathways.

He continued: “We also worked with Deloitte last year and published a blueprint for a green workforce transformation, that sets out how larger-scale organisations can embed sustainability right across their organisation, whether that be procurement, legal, etc.”

Goodwin also listened to feedback from attendees on the various barriers to developing green skills, explained how the government should provide “long-term certainty” for businesses to invest in staff, and highlighted IEMA’s campaign to include a commitment to green skills on the final cover text of the COP28 negotiations.

BusinessGreen’s Net Zero Festival 2023 continues tomorrow. Learn more here: Net Zero Festival 2023 Homepage


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