Why green graduates deliver business benefits

16th January 2012

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IEMA's director of membership strategy and development, Claire Lea, spreads the world about what environment graduates can offer organisations

In her second contribution to Guardian Sustainable Business – the online network for corporate sustainability – IEMA’s director of membership strategy and development, Claire Lea, looks at what environment graduates, with their recently developed skills and knowledge together with their typically unbridled energy and
enthusiasm, can bring to modern businesses.

Why green graduates deliver business benefits

The continuing economic downturn, coupled with new research from the Department for Education showing that almost 20% of 19- to 24-year-olds in England are not in education, employment or training, is a concerning picture.

This figure highlights the real challenges that young people, including graduates, are facing, while acknowledging that this isn’t the only group facing unemployment. It led me to think about the value that environment and sustainability graduates bring to organisations. I also considered their potential role in the transition to a sustainable green economy and in delivering long-term growth for business.

Although graduates or early career professionals lack experience, they are potentially a valuable resource for business. They are equipped with the latest knowledge on environment and sustainability, and the proactive ones will have work experience too.

With this combination they can hit the ground running, they can analyse a problem, develop innovative solutions, write a business case and communicate their ideas effectively.

Young people provide a different perspective, a fresh approach and can bring the creative thinking that organisations need to develop sustainable solutions.

Recent graduate Charlie Symonds from Stannah Stairlifts – a runner-up in the 2011 IEMA graduate award – is a good example of this.

With drive, determination and creative thinking he identified more than £180,000 of savings for his organisation. He puts this down to a thorough understanding of the environmental impacts of a product throughout its life cycle – combining his environmental knowledge with business skills to deliver a sustainable solution.

Sharing his experience of graduate recruitment, Alan Fowler, principal at consultants Environ, says: “The ones that stand out are those with relevant work experience and excellent interpersonal skills.”

He finds that the most successful graduates are those who have travelled, especially to more challenging destinations.

Fowler comments that “while we place a huge importance on technical expertise, Environ is fundamentally a consultancy business, so the most successful candidates will also show that they have a good business sense, the ability to build strong working relationships with our clients and other attributes that fit our culture.”

Fowler considers that in his experience, graduates bring huge value to an organisation. “They tend to be very IT-literate and often have huge enthusiasm and commitment, which is so important in a client-focused consultancy business,” he says.

There is a huge opportunity for organisations to harness the sustainable thinking, skills and enthusiasm of graduates and early career professionals to deliver long-term growth for the business and contribute to creating a sustainable green economy.

Claire’s blog was originally published by Guardian Sustainable Business on 16 December 2011 and IEMA members are invited to comment on it. While you are visiting, why not sign up to become a member of Guardian Sustainable Business?


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