Experts: Lack of Climate Talent Halts Net Zero Goals
Prominent sustainability leaders at major UK companies have issued a warning regarding the scarcity of climate change talent, emphasising that it poses a significant barrier to achieving their Net Zero targets.
This information comes from recent research by EY, which polled 506 Chief Sustainability Officers or equivalents worldwide, including 40 sustainability leaders based in the UK, from companies with annual revenues of at least £1 billion. The study examined the steps taken by companies to tackle climate change.
According to the research, when asked about the greatest obstacles to achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050, over a third (35%) of UK sustainability leaders and 28% of global leaders identified the difficulty in recruiting professionals with climate change skills as one of the key external barriers.
Similarly, 33% of UK sustainability leaders and 31% globally highlighted the lack of climate change expertise at the board and senior management level as a top internal barrier, impeding their organisations from prioritising and implementing their Net Zero strategies.
The study by EY also revealed that nearly one-third (30%) of UK leaders perceive the challenge of retaining or upskilling environmentally conscious talent as a significant internal barrier to addressing climate change.
Nevertheless, the research found that the majority of respondents are already taking action to address the skills deficit. Half (50%) of UK sustainability leaders indicated that their organisations are currently in the process of recruiting new employees or retraining their existing workforce, while 28% stated that this process had already been completed.
Sustainability leaders expressed concerns that UK regulations are hindering the establishment of partnerships crucial for achieving Net Zero targets. Approximately 63% of UK sustainability leaders identified joint ventures as potentially effective in reducing product emissions, and 60% believed they could drive the development of innovative climate change solutions. However, 56% of sustainability leaders in the UK cited regulatory concerns as a barrier to forming such partnerships, compared to 33% globally.
Despite these challenges, the research showcased that sustainability leaders worldwide maintain confidence in reaching their Net Zero targets.
Ninety-nine per cent of global respondents expressed confidence in meeting their climate change commitments within the set timeframe.
In the UK, 25% of sustainability leaders were extremely confident, and 53% were very confident in achieving their targets. Only 8% of UK leaders expressed doubts about their ability to accomplish their goals. These findings suggest that, by urgently addressing internal and external barriers, UK businesses could be on track to reaching their targets.
Rob Doepel, EY UK&I’s Managing Partner for Sustainability, emphasised the increasing demand for employees with sustainability expertise across various industries as the economy transitions to Net Zero.
Doepel also stressed the importance of environmental expertise at the leadership level in ensuring business success in the new green economy. While many leaders remain confident in achieving their targets, there is an underlying concern that a lack of sustainability expertise, particularly at the leadership level, could impede business Net Zero ambitions.
Doepel emphasised the need for further investment to enhance in-house expertise and attract talent at all levels of business, citing the necessity for disclosure and planning in key areas of the Net Zero transition.
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