The Effects of Climate Change on Talent Strategy: Exciting Work Ahead for In-Demand Talent Leaders
Many countries and industries are experiencing talent shortages as a result of technological change as well as ageing populations retiring and not enough newcomers entering the job market. In addition, the millions of new green jobs created in the next decade will further increase demand for skilled workers. This is an exciting time for Talent Management and Talent Acquisition leaders to flex their strategic and creative muscle in solving the challenges of talent shortages, building future capability and differentiating their organisations as an attractive place to work.
Commitment to the Environment Can Fuel Talent Attraction
There is a lever that is often underutilised in talent attraction: the showcasing of an organisation’s commitment to zero emissions and environmentally sustainable practices.
Whilst compensation, flexibility and culture are important, employees are increasingly placing a higher priority on purpose and meaning as reasons to stay or change jobs. Talented professionals are wanting to work for organisations that stand for something meaningful and create value for stakeholders and society.
An organisation’s approach to climate change matters. According to February 2022 research conducted by Deloitte across 45 countries and 23,000 participants, a record 49% of people aged 18 to 25 and 44% of people aged 26 to 38 chose their preferred work or employers based on personal ethics. Climate change was the top concern of the youngest cohort even above unemployment and education. The message is from this talent segment is clear: they have a strong sense of purpose and want to preserve the future of the planet and their own future.
Research conducted by PwC and Atlassian showed that 61% of American respondents and 66% of Australians agreed that companies that take action on important issues such as climate change are more attractive.
Talent Acquisition and Employer Branding leaders have a vital role to play in showcasing organisational values, ethics and environmentally friendly policies in the Employee Value Proposition (EVP). This can be communicated via the company’s website, marketing materials, discussed in the interview process, onboarding, etc., and is embedded in the company culture by leaders “walking the talk”. All else remaining equal, organisations with a demonstrable commitment to zero net emissions and environmentally sustainable practices offer meaning and values and can give them competitive advantage securing talent.
Which Companies are Showcasing their Climate Change Branding Well?
US manufacturing company Owens Corning has held the top spot in the 100 Best Corporate Citizens Ranking for the past three years. Climate change is one of the major criteria in the selection process. The company also scores high on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Paula Russell, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Owens Corning says “We leverage these recognitions as part of our employment brand… our career website guides people to view our strong climate change record and performance. Also, we make these recognitions visible on social media.”
Other big-name brands from around the world are weaving their sustainability goals into their online presence and branding:
Alphabet (Google’s parent company) became carbon neutral in 2007. By 2030, it plans to become the first major company to operate full-time on carbon-free energy. Orsted, the Denmark-based renewable energy company, constructs and operates offshore wind farms and its bioenergy and thermal power divisions operate heat and power plants. Orsted has the goal of becoming carbon neutral in its operations and energy production by 2025. Similarly, German retailer Adidas is aiming for climate neutrality across its operations by 2025 and 90% of products to be sustainable by the same time.
Capital Investment Leads to Exciting New Jobs: But are There Enough Skilled Workers?
As markets and companies transition to net zero carbon emissions, capital is shifting away from carbon intensive industries such as coal-fired power and towards renewable energy and a whole range of other sustainable businesses. Private Equity firms are pouring cash into high-growth sectors such as solar, wind, battery storage and carbon capture. The International Labour Organisation estimates that 24 million jobs worldwide could be created by the green economy by 2030.
It is my belief that the next 1,000 unicorns—companies that have a market valuation over a billion dollars—won’t be a search engine, won’t be a media company, they’ll be businesses developing green hydrogen, green agriculture, green steel, and green cement.Larry Fink, CEO and chairman of BlackRock. BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager, with ~$9.46 trillion USD in assets under management.
This creates an exciting challenge for the talent management and talent acquisition leaders in these green businesses to build innovative strategies to secure a supply of talent to perform new jobs in green tech, engineering, environmental science, renewable energy science, food technology, sustainable farming, weather/flood/water management and dozens of other job categories that have not been invented yet.
Talent leaders will need to be clever in the way they buy, borrow and build capability for the future. The World Economic Forum suggests that workers will need reskilling and upskilling to bridge the capability gap as the market continues to evolve and transition.
Innovative Climate-Friendly Growth Industries
It’s inspiring to admire the entrepreneurs that are reinventing the way we live. Talent will be the enabler of business success. Here are four of my personal favourite emerging green industries:
Seaweed Farming: Seaweed is a versatile and healthy product that can be used in food, baking products, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, livestock feed and fertiliser. In addition, it is a highly effective means of carbon sequestration with the capacity to absorb billions of tons of carbon dioxide per year.
Mushroom Bricks: The mushroom brick is “grown” by mixing chopped-up corn husks with mycelium (the root structure of fungi) and left to set in a mold for five days. These bricks are durable, light weight and “grown” with no carbon emissions and no waste.
3D Printed Houses: The 3D printing method involves a cement mixer with a robotic arm squirting out a specially formulated cement which is “printed” according to the architect’s design. The special cement is added layer upon layer to create a wall of lode-bearing strength. The process takes around 120 hours and is environmentally friendly because it uses far less cement, energy, and other products than traditional construction methods.
Vertical Farming: According to UrbanGreenFarms in Australia, “vertical farming is the practice of growing crops using soilless farming techniques such as hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics in vertically stacked layers. It often incorporates controlled-environment agriculture, which aims to optimise plant growth with nutrients, lighting, and pH. Vertical farming is perfect for high density living areas or to save space.”
Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in the demand for talent management and talent acquisition leaders across the world. With acute talent shortages in many job categories and the impending creation of millions of new green jobs, the role of talent leaders will continue to become more strategic and more highly valued. Organisations will need to invest more into three areas of talent management. Firstly, they will need to invest in building a compelling (and authentic) EVP for their target markets. Secondly, investment will be needed to enable their talent acquisition functions to create a long term relationship-driven, high-touch experience for candidates as a means of differentiating themselves from competitors. Thirdly, organisations will need to grow more of their own talent organically by investing in learning and building capability internally. This all culminates in an exciting and rewarding journey ahead for highly skilled talent management and talent acquisition professionals.