What Are Green Skills And Why Is It Important To Bring Them Into Your Business?

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Small businesses right up to huge conglomerates are focusing on their carbon footprint and their customers’ demands to become more environmentally-friendly.

Thy are realising the power they wield when it comes to going green.

Key Points

  • There will be an increased need for green skills in businesses over the next few years, as the climate emergency reaches its peak.
  • An employee with green skills will primarily focus on establishing sustainable processes in your business, but they’ll also possess other qualities that are essential across many sectors.
  • Green skills can come in handy in entry-level positions, senior leadership positions, and everything in between. It’s important to make sure your whole team is on board with sustainability planning.

LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Green Skills Report showed that in 2019, green workers were hired at a faster rate than non-green workers, proving the emphasis that companies are placing on building sustainable workplaces.

Bringing green skills into your business could benefit by helping you to adapt your current processes to become more environmentally friendly, as well as establishing your company as a sustainable brand for your customers.

Unlocking green skills

Watch this interview to discover how TSW Training can empower you with the skills you need to future-proof your career, and drive change in the new sustainable economy. 

What are green skills?

Green skills bring together knowledge, abilities, and values to support a sustainable society. They’re needed across all industries and will become increasingly important over the next few years.

Typical green skills include knowledge of:

  • pollution prevention
  • ecosystem management
  • environmental protection

An employee with green skills will primarily focus on establishing sustainable processes in your business, but they’ll also possess other qualities that are essential across many sectors.

Creativity will be required as your team members find new ways of working, and they’ll also need the courage to pursue the most environmentally-friendly solutions, even if this goes against the grain.

In the science and technology fields, green skills can play a huge part in innovation and moving companies forward into new sustainable territories. A certain level of project management experience and communication expertise will help bring the green agenda to the fore, while leadership and management skills can help an employee who is focused on green issues have a high level of influence within the team.

Read more: Equipping the new generation with green skills

10 green skills which could help you get an environmental or sustainability job

While having green credentials will be helpful in breaking into particular high-demand industries – such as construction and manufacturing – they can equally be applied in any organisation hoping to meet net-zero targets. With this in mind, here are 10 green skills which could help you get a foothold in the sustainability market.

#1. Critical thinking

First and foremost, the ability to think critically about environmental problems and their solutions is vital. This means not accepting measures that are dictated to you, but rather challenging accepted practices, and working towards the most nature-centric solution. In other words, how do we work most harmoniously with nature?

Critical thinking goes hand-in-hand with problem solving, because it requires you to get to the very root of a problem. This skill also encompasses values of the circular economy – reusing, recycling and regenerating – to work out how best to close the loop of material consumption.

#2. Environmental science

Scientific enquiry and understanding has obvious application in the field of sustainability. Having an understanding of the natural world – and our impact on it – goes to the very heart of the problems we’re facing today, and the solutions required to work in balance with nature.

As such, having a good grasp of physics, chemistry and biology is a very strong hand.

For example, you could turn it to conducting environmental impact assessments, or implementing sustainable practices in various sectors. And being able to rigorously gather and analyse relevant data is also key in this field.

#3. Energy efficiency

Knowledge and expertise in optimising energy use is a skill which is in demand from all organisations, great and small. This starts with being able to conduct energy audits; goes through implementing efficiency measures; then to analysing results and implementing improvements, before the cycle begins again.

There’s a huge amount underpinning this skill, which touches on a surprising number of aspects of organisations’ day-to-day running. Becoming energy efficient can encompass reducing consumption, reusing and recycling… But also educating staff, choosing sustainable suppliers (and supplies), organising office processes more effectively, and the list goes on.

This skill also leans on critical thinking, because it’s all about coming up with creative and innovative solutions to energy saving which may not be immediately obvious.

#4. Waste management

The days of disposability and sending everything to landfill are thankfully numbered. But knowing how to best deal with materials and resources that are no longer required is a skill in itself. Minimising the environmental impact of waste and promoting a circular economy should be at the forefront of organisations’ minds. And as such, waste management is very much an ability in demand.

This requires expertise in reusing, recycling, composting and proper disposal methods. It also requires a good knowledge of how to minimise waste being produced in the first place.

To help reduce waste during production, find out more about lean manufacturing.

#5. Water conservation

At school, you may have learned that the water cycle means that water circulates endlessly. The implication is that there’s an endless supply for everyone. Sadly, this isn’t the case. Water is a finite resource with an increasing demand, and the impending threat of water scarcity is a real thing. As such, conserving water as best we can is an important step towards sustainability.

This is why water resource management is a valued skill. It comprises knowledge in managing and conserving water resources – including techniques for water harvesting, irrigation efficiency and water pollution control. It can also be applied in any number of industries, from building to agriculture to production.

#6. Green building

With sustainability in construction in sharp focus, knowing how to build in harmony with the environment has never been in greater demand. This means knowing how to design and build sustainably; but also dealing with legacy problems and retrofitting existing buildings.

This encompasses other skills, such as energy efficiency, waste management and water conservation. But it’s also important to remember that buildings should be usable and liveable, striking the balance of users’ needs with those of the environment.

*Find out more about how sustainability can be promoted in construction, including water efficiency.

#7. Sustainable agriculture

As one of the leading industries with a demand for green skills, sustainable agriculture expertise is of paramount importance. Challenges to the industry include climate change, soil degradation and water scarcity. To tackle these, creative and low-impact solutions are required for cultivating crops and raising livestock.

Upskilling in sustainable agriculture spans organic farming practices, promoting biodiversity, conserving water and reducing reliance on synthetic products. But the benefits are plentiful, such as reduced greenhouse emissions, healthier ecosystems, enhanced livelihood for farmers… And better, more sustainable food reaching our tables.

#8. Green supply chain management

It’s sometimes easy to think of an organisation’s supply chain and logistics as being out of sight, out of mind. But it’s important to adopt sustainable practices at all stages of a product or service’s lifecycle. Green supply chain management focuses on being eco-conscious from start to finish: from sustainable sourcing, eco-friendly packaging and efficient transportation to responsible disposal.

Adopting best practices also have numerous benefits besides reducing environmental impact.

For example, businesses are likely to improve their brand reputation, and you may even find that ethical practices actually reduce business costs.

*Find out more about how sustainability and profitability can go hand-in-hand.

#9. Sustainable transportation

Transport is going places. And increasingly we’re looking to sustainable transport systems and modes to get there. The relevant know-how covers not only the switch to more eco-friendly modes of transport, such as electric vehicles (EVs), but also improvements to infrastructure. It needs to be as easy as possible to use low-emission modes, so changing people’s transport choices often requires creative solutions.

Specialising in reducing the impact of the way we travel is an in-demand skill, especially given this is an area traditionally associated with high emissions and high wastage. It’s also an area which can be integrated into most businesses and organisations – even despite the increase in remote working – given that there’s typically a need for staff to travel.

#10. Renewable energy

A good grounding in renewables is also desirable in many industries. Using finite resources for our power is clearly unsustainable, but switching to more environmentally friendly sources can yield numerous benefits. For example, homes or business premises powered entirely by solar energy can shield themselves from price spikes in the energy market.

As such, skills related to generating, installing and maintaining renewable energy systems are particularly useful – whether it’s solar, wind, hydro or geothermal power. At the time of writing, heat pump engineers in the UK are in increasing demand, for instance.

How can green skills benefit businesses?

There will be an increased need for green skills in businesses over the next few years, as the climate emergency reaches its peak.

Some sectors will require employees with green skills to ensure they’re meeting legal requirements on carbon emissions or waste management; others will find that having green skills within their team will help them to find more efficient and effective ways of working, even without any legal obligations.

Each sector will benefit from green skills in different ways.

  • For instance, engineering and technical companies will find green skills invaluable when it comes to designing eco-friendly buildings, pursuing renewable energy, or taking part in research and development projects that champion energy-saving methods.
  • Architectural firms, in particular, will require green skills in-house to design buildings that comply with sustainable regulations, while car manufacturers employ engineers to manufacture low emission vehicles.
  • Utility companies will need environmental scientists on board to help them understand how they can protect ecosystems and wildlife while keeping their consumers’ supply intact.
  • In the same vein, roles such as nuclear monitoring technicians will also be in high demand as the shift for renewable energy supplies switches to nuclear power.

Bringing people with green skills into the business might not only be required, it may also prove hugely beneficial.

*Find out which industries have the greatest demand for sustainable business skills.

What can businesses do to upskill current staff to become greener skilled?

Luckily, there are plenty of courses available to help upskill your team.

The Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), provides IEMA training courses that focus specifically on sustainability and your business’ impact on the environment.

“As individuals and as a society, we’re all starting to have a baseline knowledge of sustainability,” says Rachael Gooding, sustainability consultant and associate trainer with TSW Training. “The IEMA courses are really good at letting you know what’s out there – they’ll give you everything when it comes to sustainability. They’ll give you an overview of the key areas so you can direct your strategy and resources to what you believe would be best for your business.”

IEMA courses are available at TSW Training for members of staff at all levels – from those on the shop floor to specialists – and if you live in Wales, you could benefit from PLA funding to cover the cost.

Listen to our training experts on how your business can become more sustainable, in our green skills podcast

How can green skills help a business to adapt?

Bringing green skills into your business could help you to adopt processes that minimise negative impacts on the environment. For instance, that could be bringing in new technology to bring down carbon emissions or introducing a closed-loop system where waste is reused, rather than thrown away.

A sustainability consultant can help you to identify areas in your business that can be adapted to suit a more environmentally-friendly way of working too. They could suggest lean production which can benefit your business by keeping costs down when it comes to manufacturing, while also reducing your carbon footprint.

How can businesses attract the right green-skilled workers?

Firstly, it’s a good idea to identify where you need green skills in your business, in order to attract the right people.

A skills gap analysis can help you find areas that require employees with specific green skills. It might be that this is a management position, changing the way your team works to become more sustainable, a Chief Sustainability Officer role that would oversee sustainability across the whole company or an influx of newly qualified Gen Z workers who could be the driving force to a sustainable future.

  • Green skills can come in handy in entry-level positions, senior leadership positions, and everything in between. It’s important to make sure your whole team is on board with sustainability planning.
  • Once you know where you need green skilled workers to fit in, you can work on producing engaging job descriptions to attract them.
  • It’s important to be transparent about your vision for the future and where you want your strategy to take you so that potential new employees can see where your goals align with theirs.
  • No matter what seniority level your employee will be joining at, those with green skills will want to know they can play their part in driving your sustainability strategy forward and making a difference.

“Sustainability as a whole needs to be driven throughout the business,” says Rachael. “People need to be armed with these tools, and they need to have a baseline knowledge of legislation. Having this knowledge is imperative to a business.”

The right green skills training will give your team just that.

Take a look at the list of the IEMA courses & training programmes we offer to help you get your team up to speed:

Case Study: DS Smith

TSW Training recently worked with DS Smith to develop the skills and expertise they need to transition to a more sustainable future and thrive in the green economy.

James Nicholl, a trainer at TSW, has seen demand for these types of courses rise dramatically in recent years. He says: “Companies understand the value of training. They know it’s all well and good to have a grand vision for decarbonisation, but unless your staff are equipped with green skills, their strategies will not be achieved.”

Picture of Matthew Channell
Matthew Channell
Matthew is TSW Training’s Commercial Director. He writes about performance focussed learning, leadership, and management approaches that have real-world, sustainable impact.
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