IEMA calls for action to boost green skills

5th November 2013


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UK companies' efforts to become more sustainable are being hampered by a lack of awareness and understanding of environmental issues in their workforce, IEMA has warned

Urgent action is needed to address the burgeoning green skills gap, says the Institute, and it is calling on the government and businesses to work together to embed sustainability in mainstream education and professional training courses.

“I hear from businesses time and again that they have the ambition and the foresight to place environment and sustainability at their core but, because of a mismatch between supply and demand for environmental skills, they cannot access the right skills at the right scale,” said Tim Balcon, IEMA’s CEO, as he launched the Institute’s new call for action on green skills. “Without collaboration, business, government and the environment profession will not be equipped to achieve a robust, sustainable economy.”

Joan Walley MP, chair of the environment select committee (pictured above), hosted the launch of IEMA’s call for action and said: “We need to be professional in how we mark out the green skills needed to shift to a sustainable economy, whether it’s for the chief finance officer looking at the investment portfolio or the mechanic that puts the final bolt on to a new car. Unless we have embedded sustainability at each stage of the design and production process we’re not going to succeed.”

Employees’ lack of environmental awareness stems from gaps in the national curriculum and in vocational training, according to the Institute, and is preventing organisations reaping the financial benefits of energy and resource efficiency. It is also a significant barrier to the government’s ambitions of transforming the UK into a truly sustainable economy.

The results of IEMA’s latest resources and waste management survey, due to be published in early 2014, reveal that having qualified environment professionals in place saves firms thousands of pounds each year. Close to 60% of the 940 environment practitioners polled confirmed their company had cut costs as a result of their activities. Some of those working for the UK’s biggest firms revealed that they had generated savings of more than £1 million each year.

Of the IEMA members working for firms employing 250–1,000 staff, one-fifth said their firm was saving at least £100,000 a year and a further 18% confirmed savings of more than £200,000. Small and medium-sized firms are also benefiting from employing skilled environment professionals, with 63% cutting costs by more than £5,000 each year.

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