The discussion surrounding the climate crisis often focuses on things such as the disruption we will face due to extreme weather events. What’s less talked about is what the change to decarbonization and moving to net zero will mean for our working lives.
Already anticipating the increase in help its clients will need in this area, PwC is on record as saying it is aiming to have 100,000 sustainability/CSR consultants by 2025. In parallel, so important is the issue to young workers that 20 percent of U.K. office workers would turn down a job if they felt the environmental, social and governance (ESG) moves were inadequate, with almost half of workers wanting their employers to demonstrate climate and social commitments.
As KPMG explains about its findings, “For businesses the direction of travel is clear: By 2025, 75 percent of the working population will be Millennials, meaning [businesses] will need to have credible plans to address ESG if they want to continue to attract and retain this growing pool of talent.”
So while you absolutely do still need to worry about the wider climate picture too, as a business person you also need to start thinking of every job role going forward as having a green aspect. In other words, no matter what the formal position’s title, staff will need to be educated and empowered to make a climate contribution. And the transition to sustainability will not be the responsibility of the ESG or CSR departments alone.
My team at AXA Climate has just conducted some extensive work with LittleBig Connection to shine a spotlight on the experts who are trail-blazing at the intersection of sustainability and modern career pathways.
The transformation of existing professions
The reality is no sector can avoid all that’s coming from the sustainable transformation. Everyone will have a role to play in the move to this new paradigm, and while we’ll definitely need new skills, knowledge and job positions, the change is already beginning to come through in people’s existing jobs.
For just one example of how existing jobs are adapting for a sustainable future, take Valérie Decamp, executive director for Mediatransports, a continental advertising agency specializing in the public transport sector. Decamp is redefining the whole business advertising model, as her organization is giving a portion of its advertising inventory to NGOs and other bodies who raise public and business awareness of environmental issues. In an effort to limit greenwashing, she is also setting up a responsible pricing structure that will take into account the environmental impact of the business practices of the advertising company, as well as any direct impact caused by the publicity itself.
A similar example is human resources director Xavier Molinié. He is part of the management team at tech firm Critizr, which markets a customer interaction management platform. The link between his role and the climate may not be immediately obvious, but he told us that he’s preparing for the changes in skills required for the company’s sustainable transition. This involves the expansion of CSR teams and the acquisition of new skills in areas such as Green IT, carbon accounting and new methods of communication.
The new green jobs are here
Molinié told us his prediction that “there can be no transition without cultural adaptation and the upgrading of skills.” However, what is happening increasingly is the emergence of completely new business functions dedicated to help that are producing genuinely new green jobs.
One of the first examples we found was the emergence of a new class of skilled workers in emerging sectors. Stéphane Belot works at Electro Dépôt, a French discount store chain specializing in leisure, multimedia and household appliances. Belot’s job title is director of solidarity and ecological transition, and he explains that this means that on a daily basis he’s trying to get the whole company moving in order to decarbonize the business model.
Changes in the business sector follow the money. So when green jobs are also springing up in the banking sector, I take notice.
Another example of a completely new green job born out of urgent need is Anne Desormais, whose business card describes her as extra-financial information leader at sporting goods retailer Decathlon. That, according to Desormais, means she is responsible for collecting and transforming all the company’s sustainable work data so that it is accessible, clear and transparent. (Hence “extra” — beyond what the annual report financials tend to concentrate on).
Marie Garnier’s role at European wholesale food distributor Métro also exemplifies a similar gap-fill to move the company’s green agenda forward. She is responsible for quality and sustainable development, which involves not just the monitoring, analysis and understanding of the impacts and challenges of a sustainable economy and lifestyle will have on the company, but also continuous analysis of the actions it is taking.
In practice, Garnier has set up and administered a reliable internal company system that shares all green objectives with everyone and measures the results of the actions undertaken. This includes regular communication, both internally and externally, to explain the challenges, projects and plans associated with the brand’s sustainability agenda.
Transformation of the funding systems
A lot of times, changes in the business sector follow the money. So when green jobs are also springing up in the banking sector, I take notice. Take the Business Development Bank of Canada, which has a dedicated lead sustainability and decarbonization projects incubator position filled by Pierre-Olivier Brodeur.
Brodeur describes his job as developing financial products such as loans and non-financial banking services such as business consulting and information sites to help small and midsized businesses reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
“Transformation cannot succeed if it’s treated as just another project,” he warns. “It must be the priority, which means allocating adequate financial resources, freeing up time so that employees can focus on this transition, and clearly communicating the strategic importance of what you’re in the process of accomplishing.”
Personally, I find it incredibly reassuring and exciting that established professions such as HR and advertising are expanding to cover net zero, as well as the emergence of these groundbreaking and novel new jobs, ranging from new directors of ecological transition; to executives with responsibility for quality and sustainable development; to individuals whose sole responsibility is being sustainability and decarbonization lead.
In a world where so much of green discourse is so bleak, I see this commitment from companies as a basis for optimism.