As deadlines loom and the impacts of climate change continue to grow more severe and widespread, businesses the world over are pushing hard toward developing strategies to better achieve their sustainability goals, with many facing increasing pressure from governments, investors, customers, and the general public to keep their promises. The high demand for sustainability experts is putting stress on both in-house sustainability teams and consultancies, and a recent joint report from Microsoft and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has uncovered an unsustainable talent shortage and urgent need to upskill
The new report, “Closing the Sustainability Skills Gap: Helping businesses move from pledges to progress,” revealed that despite the number of companies with science-based targets or emissions reductions commitments nearly quadrupling since 2020, 57% of sustainability professionals did not have a degree related to the field, and 40% lacked more than three years of experience in sustainability.
The job market for sustainability professionals is only growing, increasing 8% per year between 2016 and 2020, with talent pool growth lagging behind at 6%.
The report also stated that more than two-thirds of sustainability leaders were hired from within their organizations, with many coming from prior roles that were unrelated to the field.
“The historical importance and current breadth of the sustainability skilling challenge are difficult to overstate,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s Vice Chair and President, writes in the report. “The creation of a net-zero planet will require that sustainability science spreads into every sector of the economy.”
The pressing need to develop a qualified talent pool that can scale to meet the exploding demand for sustainability professionals has led Microsoft and BCG to recommend an approach focused on three key areas: working together to develop a data-driven framework to define the knowledge and skills needed, moving quickly to implement learning initiatives to upskill a robust sustainability workforce, and a global focus on preparing the next generation of workers for the sustainability jobs of the future.
The two companies both emphasized the importance of investment in a workforce ready to meet the need for the level of worldwide business transformation required to adapt to an ecosystem that is currently being pushed to its breaking point, risking the lives and livelihoods of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. While the climate outlook is growing more dire, commitment and focus from both the public and private sectors can still get the world back on track.