IEMA launches urgent call to action to fill environment and sustainability skills gap

15th October 2014


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Rowan Harper

Only 13% of companies are fully confident that they have the skills to successfully compete in a sustainable economy, according to a report published by IEMA today.

The global economy is heading towards a perfect storm of pressure on all fronts, according to a report on the environment and sustainability skills deficit published by IEMA.

By 2020 the world economy could be facing a supply deficit driven by global mega-trends, including; population growth, increasing demand for natural resources, soaring costs of energy - together with the impacts of climate change and ecosystem degradation. All are combining to pose significant challenges to the long-term success of business and the global economy.

The transition to a sustainable economy presents significant opportunities that business needs to grasp, the report says. However, according to an IEMA survey of over 900 organisations, only 13% of companies are fully confident that they have the skills to successfully compete in the sustainable economy. Recent IEMA research has shown that businesses both small and large can save money through more efficient use of resources from £5,000 to over £1m per year.

“In the new business world, environment and sustainability can no longer be a bolt on, it needs to be part of businesses’ DNA. IEMA is launching its campaign “preparing for the perfect storm – skills for a sustainable economy” to shine a light on this issue and catalyse action to address the skills deficit.

“Businesses need to urgently turn what is a growing and prevailing list of challenges into opportunities. The most effective way of grasping this opportunity is by ensuring that all businesses have access to a new set of skills on environment and sustainability to ensure that UK plc and businesses globally can transition and survive in this new economy,” said Tim Balcon, CEO of IEMA.

The research also shows that only 25% of leaders, and 20% of senior managers, are fully capable of addressing the sustainability agenda.

In 72% of organisations, investment in environment and sustainability skills is less than for other disciplines, with 63% of organisations spending less than £100 per head on environment and sustainability training each year.

Two thirds of firms have not carried out a strategic evaluation of skills needed to successfully compete in a sustainable economy, and over half of organisations are unable to recruit environment and sustainability professionals with the right skills.

IEMA’s campaign has brought together a growing number of businesses, organisations and individuals to raise awareness of this issue including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, EDF Energy, EY and Saint-Gobain to collaborate and catalyse action on this issue.

“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,” said Tim Balcon.

IEMA’s skills framework includes the following key actions:

  • Skills for leaders to integrate sustainability into long-term decision making
  • Enhance skills and capability for environment and sustainability professionals so they can integrate sustainability throughout their organisations and value chains, building in foresight and horizon scanning and creating the business case
  • Increased environment and sustainability knowledge and understanding for all workers
  • Environment and sustainability must be integrated into the national curriculum, ensuring that young people entering work are able to play their part at the start of their careers
  • Skills gaps at all levels need to be filled, from apprenticeships to those in leadership and managerial roles

All IEMA members who receive the environmentalist have been sent a hard copy of the report with the October issue. This contains full details of the research as well as case studies from IEMA members. More information about the campaign can be found here.


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