Business heading towards a sustainability skills gap

A NEW REPORT from The Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) has found that just a fraction of UK companies feel that have the skills to compete in a sustainable economy.

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The findings come as the IEMA launch its ‘Skills for a Sustainable Economy – Preparing for a Perfect Storm,’ campaign, which aims to drive awareness of sustainability skills that will be needed to successfully compete in future circular markets.


The report reveals that by 2020 the world economy could be facing a supply deficit driven by global mega-trends, including population growth, increasing demand for natural resources, soaring costs of energy – together with the impacts of climate change and ecosystem degradation. All are combining to pose significant challenges to the long-term success business and the global economy.


With the evidence building that a sustainable economy can deliver significant opportunities for business – recent IEMA research has shown that businesses both small and large can save money with more efficient use of resources from £5,000 to over £1m per year.


Tim Balcon, CEO, IEMA, said: “In the new business world, sustainability can no longer be a bolt on, it needs to be part of businesses’ DNA.


“IEMA is launching its campaign “Preparing for the Perfecting Storm – Skills for a Sustainable Economy” to shine a light on this issue and catalyse action to address the skills deficit.


“Businesses need to urgently turn what is a growing and prevailing list of challenges into opportunities. The most effective way of grasping this opportunity is by ensuring that all businesses have access to a new set of skills – environment and sustainability – to ensure that UK plc and businesses globally can transition and survive in this new economy.”


IEMA’s research into more than 900 businesses shows that many lack the basic skills to capitalise on the opportunities that a sustainable economy can offer and to guarantee their survival:


• Skills to compete – Only 13% of companies are fully confident that they have the skills to successfully compete in a sustainable economy

• Leadership gap – Only 25% of leaders, and 20% of senior managers, are fully capable of addressing the sustainability agenda

• Funding gap – In 72% of organisations, investment in environment and sustainability skills is less than for other disciplines with 63% of organisations spending less than £100 per head on environment and sustainability training each year

• Strategic challenge – 65% haven’t carried out a strategic evaluation of skills needed to successfully compete in a sustainable economy

• Recruitment gap – Over half (53%) of organisations are unable to recruit environment and sustainability professionals with the right skills.