Against the backdrop of turbulence in 2020 from Covid-19, social unrest, a major European conflict, and supply chain issues, the area of sustainability has emerged stronger than ever before.
In general, people are starting to value more than just a company’s economic strengths and are instead appreciating their commitment to ethical and environmental responsibilities.
In fact, according to S&P Global and GreenBiz Group’s State of Green Business 2021 report, more business leaders are taking action as the need for sustainable practices becomes increasingly urgent.
This is because businesses are being held accountable for how they manage and achieve their sustainability goals, with mounting pressure coming from governments, stakeholders, shareholders, charitable organisations and customers.
In short, business sustainability refers to an organisation’s impact on the environment and wider society. A sustainable company should therefore seek to improve the environment or the rights, health, and happiness of the people in its community.
A key driver of all of this is, without doubt, the risk of climate change, which is both unprecedented and poised to threaten sustainability measures as organisations try to work towards net zero emissions goals.
As a result, many will now need to sustainably transform their business models to find new avenues for growth to ensure future commercial success. One solution is to define the key skills and job titles which businesses should be hiring to help them reach their sustainability goals.
Here, we list the core skills which will help to make a difference to your business sustainability practices…
Have good foundational knowledge
Before you can implement sustainable business practices, you need to cultivate a team which has a good grasp of environmental science and climate change. They should also know the social issues most prevalent in your industry and how your business is impacting each of those areas.
This might include knowing your organisation’s carbon emission output, what you do to give back to the community or how you support fair labour rights. This process is likely to entail a sustainability audit which covers aspects such as employees’ happiness, waste produced annually, civic engagement and required infrastructure to support sustainable practices.
Understanding why your organisation needs to implement sustainability practices will help you to build a team which is both logical and passionate about its principal cause.
Possess strong leadership qualities
People need strong and decisive leadership qualities to enter this field. Skills such as knowing how to delegate tasks and empowering others to take them on, maintaining team resilience when circumstances change, communicating organisational change effectively and being authentic with your team are vital.
Sustainability leaders are often required to make difficult decisions based only on current circumstances. As the climate crisis rages on, your people will need the skills to think both quickly and objectively to ensure that your organisation isn’t contributing to the wider problem.
Ability to identify strategic opportunities
You need people who understand how to develop their knowledge of sustainable business practices and spot new opportunities to make impactful changes, positively contribute to sustainability efforts and improve your organisation’s results.
Having a team on board which knows where sustainability intersects with your company’s profitability and overall success - for example your energy consumption levels and how to reduce them - is key to identifying those opportunities.
It’s important that your sustainability team members are forward-thinking so they can plan for long-term success. In addition to having strong knowledge of sustainability best practices, it’s important to keep your ear to the ground as new or previously unexplored issues crop up.
Creating a business strategy that incorporates your commitment to sustainability requires planning. Your team should educate other employees on the importance of sustainability and the various initiatives which they plan to activate. This will create a company culture whose goal is to have a positive impact in the future. As environmental issues and your industry evolve, your organisation can move with them and be ready to act and react accordingly.
Adept at problem-solving
Professionals who are able to develop creative solutions to new and complex challenges are more likely to succeed in the battle to be more sustainable. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut, but pivoting to sustainable practices requires progressive ideas and a willingness to trial them. Brainstorming sessions provide a good way to build a supportive culture - and one where people feel comfortable - about sharing ideas which can help solve any sustainability problems.
Be confident at handling data
Other important skills to have before diving into a sustainability role include collecting, analysing and reporting on data. This is because having the ability to track the results of sustainability efforts over time, alongside their effect on various parts of your business, can enable you to prove their impact and communicate it through data visualisation.
This information can influence business strategy moving forward. For instance, if your initiative to decrease carbon emissions isn’t producing results as quickly as anticipated, perhaps your team might want to consider exploring a new method to see if the rate of change increases.
Be effective at communicating
A strong sense of purpose is essential for committing to sustainability work but you need to be able to communicate your goals effectively. This is so that it resonates with the wider business and they become compelled to help your sustainability mission so that it resonates.
Useful communication tactics include storytelling, to illustrate your point, sharing statistics that communicate the urgency and timeliness of sustainability, presenting compelling data trends and asking people questions which spark reflection on their own personal connection to a sustainable future.
If you’re currently transforming your business and need talented professionals to drive that change, get in touch with our Business Change & Transformation recruitment experts:
Barry McDonald – Business Manager, Customer Contact, Business Change & Transformation (Scotland)
0141 737 2479, firstname.lastname@example.org
Neil Johns – Director, Customer Contact, Business Change & Transformation
0161 883 2743, email@example.com
If you would like to discuss this or any of the topics covered in our articles, please get in touch.