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New research reveals green talent gap in UK

  • 35% of Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) are experiencing trouble attracting new talent with skills in the environmental industry.

  • 33% feel a lack of Board-level leadership and expertise is hindering net zero progress.

  • 56% expressed concerns over the UK regulations being a barrier from building valuable partnerships to tackle climate change.

The hard-hitting new research, conducted by EY, was created to gauge the action companies are taking to fight climate change. These valuable insights have brought to light the common challenge many UK companies are experiencing in the race to net zero: a severe lack of climate talent. 

We know that reducing carbon emissions is crucial for achieving sustainability targets in business. But without prioritising a strong S&CC workforce across all levels, this vital process is only going to be delayed.

To cast a comprehensive look at the current state-of-play, over 500 global CSOs (40 of which were UK based) shared their views and concerns. The outcome revealed 50% of organisations with a £1 billion revenue are already taking steps to either take on new workers or upskill their current workforce. Meanwhile, 25% were ahead of the game in completing the process. 

The demand for joint ventures was another apparent opportunity for businesses to establish Net Zero. In fact, 63% said partnerships could help to reduce emissions of products and 66% said it could support new climate change innovations. 

Regulatory concerns, however, are proving to be a large barrier for businesses here in the UK. Over half (56%) of CSOs feel they’re holding them back from building these valuable Net Zero joint ventures. That’s compared to just 33% globally. 

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Despite the deficit of green talent, the research does maintain a positive outlook amongst global businesses. Almost all respondents (99%) feel confident in reaching their Net Zero targets within the given timeline. A quarter (25%) said that they feel ‘extremely confident’ in doing so and 53% feel ‘very confident’ in meeting their climate change commitments. Only 8% have expressed a lack of confidence. 

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While an understanding of the importance of sustainability has come a huge way over recent years, there is an evident need for leaders to make further investment in building in-house teams that specialise in climate change. That’s across both operational and Board-level. This will also be crucial for attracting new talent - particularly as industries fight to recruit those with specific expertise in the sustainability space. 

Rob Doepel, EY UK&I’s Managing Partner for Sustainability, said, ‘“As our economy transitions towards Net Zero, demand for employees with sustainability expertise will only rise across industries. However, businesses are also recognising that environmental expertise at a leadership level could make the difference to whether their company thrives or flounders in the new green economy. While many remain confident in reaching their targets, there is an underlying concern that a lack of sustainability expertise, particularly at a leadership level, could stall business Net Zero ambitions."