IEMA Press Advisor Andre Farrar discusses IEMA and Deloitte's 'Greening your organisation: A blueprint for a green workforce transformation' report and definitions of the terms 'green jobs' and 'green skills'.

At IEMA we recognise the challenge of defining and developing green jobs and skills and, as the largest professional body in the UK for professionals working in environment and sustainability roles, we aim to drive this forward through our membership and with our corporate partners.  

Through our partnership with Deloitte, we have developed a series of tools to help organisations assess the readiness of their staff to participate in the ‘green economy’ and to identify the practical steps that can be taken to increase preparedness.   

We commissioned a YouGov poll, finding that 56% of the British public say they have never heard of the term ‘green job’ while 64% don’t understand the term ‘green skills’ and 62% don’t understand the difference between green skills and green jobs. What’s more, 65% say they don’t have access to green skills training through their employer.

Crucially, this report isn’t just about increasing the number of sustainability roles that exist across the economy. It is also about ensuring that sustainability skills exist in roles that support better environmental outcomes for example in finance and procurement. 

As the UK transitions to a sustainable economy, our understanding of what it means to be ‘green’ will undoubtedly evolve. The following are our working definitions and assumptions that guided this research.  

What do we mean by green skills?

Green skills is a broad term used to refer to the technical skills, knowledge, behaviours, and capabilities required to tackle the environmental challenges we face. While specific jobs and roles might not be directly framed in terms of delivering sustainable or environmental outcomes they are, nonetheless, capable of contributing to those outcomes.

Green skills will play a key role across all jobs and functions. We are already seeing green skills being adopted and brought into the mainstream in some traditional roles; for example, procurement teams leading sustainable and ethical procurement practices and it is to be expected that building these capabilities will accelerate in order for organisations to survive and thrive in a green economy.  

How can diverse jobs and roles have ‘green’ skills embedded with them, whether working in HR, procurement or as a hairdresser or landscape architect? There is a responsibility across business and industry to ensure that jobs and roles are transforming to meet the climate and environmental emergencies head-on.

What do we mean by green jobs?

In a world where everyone has green skills embedded in their role, some specialist roles will be recognised as ‘green jobs’. These roles will work directly towards improving environmental outcomes for an organisation or for the economy.

Green jobs are, in effect, a subset of all jobs which require green skills. The Green Jobs Taskforce report’s definition of ‘green jobs’ is taken as a working definition, as it supports our belief that green jobs encompass a wide spectrum of roles that have some impact on environmental outcomes.  

“…The term a ‘green job’ is used to signify employment in an activity that directly contributes to - or indirectly supports - the achievement of the UK's net zero emissions target and other environmental goals, such as nature restoration and mitigation against climate risks.” – Green Jobs Taskforce Report[i] 

Green jobs can take many different forms, spanning all sectors, covering diverse subject matter, and requiring a wide range of competencies. This presents a challenge in effectively mapping and monitoring shifts in the growth and evolution of green jobs.  

Decarbonisation and net-zero take centre stage in most definitions of green jobs. As such, this report aims to provide a level foundation to tackling both climate change and other environmental challenges.  

The green jobs definition may evolve over time as our perception of ‘green’ shifts, and as was pointed out in many interviews used to build the report, it is difficult to separate environmental concerns from that of society. Those involved with protecting and regenerating our natural environment are often tasked to consider the impact on humanity too. However, for the purposes of the report and to align with definitions and literature published on the subject, we focused primarily on three core environmental topics as the focus for green jobs:  Nature and biodiversity,   climate change and decarbonisation, and waste and pollution reduction .

The report, tools and matrices are available here.

[i] Green Jobs Taskforce, Green Jobs Taskforce report 


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