Sustainability Corner: Unlocking the potential of green skills

CSR and Sustainability reporting has been with us for a while, but businesses are just beginning to understand its potential and importance.
Ebenezer ASUMANG & Romein VAN STADEN

By Romein VAN STADEN & Ebenezer ASUMANG

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.”

  • Robert GREENE, an American author


It’s foreseen that by 2030, most jobs will be ones that don’t even exist yet. Climate action is already providing jobs and opportunities for the future.

Transitioning to a climate-neutral economy will trigger a fundamental transformation across various sectors.

We will craft brand-new jobs; some will be changed, while others will be redefined. The shift to a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy calls for systemic changes resulting in new products and services and alterations in production processes and business standards. This greening of the financial system will unavoidably change the skills required and the activities involved in many existing occupations.

The move to a greener and cleaner world is a massive challenge but an imperative priority. ‘Green skills’ are required to get us there – the skills people need to work in sustainable occupations. But what are ‘green skills’? Despite the lack of a one-size-fits-all definition, here are a few approaches. ‘Green skills’ are the knowledge, abilities, ideals, and attitudes critical to living in, advancing, and boosting a sustainable and resource-efficient society.

The necessity to transition towards more environmentally sustainable methods of production and consumption has become pressing for the Global South and developed countries. Currently, ‘green skills’ covers the technical skills, knowledge, behaviours, and capabilities required to pursue environmental challenges, particularly climate change, and unleash the growth opportunities they present.

In a nutshell, ‘green skills’ comprise the expertise, skills, and attitudes needed to contribute to the green economy.

They cover technical domain skills, broader transferable skills, and soft skills. Over time, “green skills density” will be expected to fortify all jobs and roles across the economy, similar to the development of digital skills over the last ten years.

It’s evident that almost all jobs now have some level of technology relevance, and it’s expected the same for green skills in the future.

The transition from carbon to complete sustainability by 2050 is central to the future of the populace. The collective responsibility is clearly understood and seen in how momentum has gained traction globally. It is acknowledged that training service providers, employers, and individuals all have a role to play. The skills system is still changing. The changes required to construct prospering and sustainable economies are substantial. Furthermore, the career development landscape is being heavily impacted, with some jobs reducing, others increasing, and new jobs added. Hence, developing the skills needed to build this robust, well-qualified, and competent workforce to meet the demands of a more sustainable world is crucial.

It’s a big challenge, and there’s no quick fix or ‘silver bullet.’ But the momentum is gaining. The transition to a sustainable labour force is already happening. ‘Green skills’ will soon be a state of normality like “business-as-usual” or be part of our day-to-day jobs in the marketplace, as digital has become. The next decade presents unprecedented opportunities; the sooner we develop these new skills, the better.

How will the green economy affect skills?

As jobs become greener, we’ll all need to obtain ‘green skills,’ even those outside the specialised sustainability areas. For example, Procurement, Operations, Marketing, Human Resources, IT, and Finance are all set to become greener.

As reported by UNFCCC in 2023, half of the world’s population is 30 years or younger and is expected to reach 57 percent by the end of 2030. By far, it is the largest generation of young people in history. This presents a unique opportunity for youth to seize the “green skills revolution” and carve a sustainable future for their generation and beyond. ‘Green skills’ cover technical knowledge, expertise, and abilities that allow for the effective use of green technologies and processes in professional settings. They draw on knowledge, values, and attitudes to promote green, sustainable decision-making at work and daily life. Even though green competencies apply to people of all ages, they are most important for the youth, who can contribute to the ecological transition over a more extended period.

According to the ILO, 100 million jobs can be created by transitioning to sustainable energy resources and a circular economy context. Some current jobs are expected to become obsolete, and the benefits of the shift are not likely to be distributed geographically or demographically except for young people who are provided with the necessary training and support systems.

There are three main approaches whereby the transition to a green economy affects requisite skills:

  • Structural changes lead to increased requirements for some tasks and a decline for others;
  • new economic activity will actualise new occupations, and there will be a necessity for new skill profiles, qualifications, and training requirements;
  • and many existing occupations and industries will experience greening changes to tasks within their jobs, which will require alterations to the current training and qualification frameworks for these occupations.

Additionally to these skills, a series of soft skills are considered especially vital, not exclusively for ‘green skills’ but commonly for “skills of the future.” Notably, skills linked to design thinking, novelty, adaptability, resilience, and empathy are paramount.

The Future is Now!

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the future of ‘green skills’ is more sustainable when we develop new skills and update ones to support the green transition. Just as most roles now require digital skills, individuals in jobs ranging from procurement specialist to fund manager to product designer or head of marketing can perform more sustainably if they have ‘green skills.’

Observations suggest that the demand for green skills is outpacing the increase in supply, raising the prospect of an imminent green skills shortage. Conversely, a school of thought asserts that ‘green skills’ and the jobs that require them are incredibly resilient during economic uncertainty.

A key premise is the malleable nature of ‘green skills.’ Surprisingly, brand reputation tops the advantages of green-skills development, followed by resilience against extreme weather events and a remarkable ability to achieve sustainability goals.

Understanding these intricate relationships, it is vital to promote and support green employment, address the skilling and reskilling of workers, and anticipate changes in workplaces of the future.

Organisations must establish robust and accessible learning environments to cope with the advancement of ‘green skills.’ At the same time, ‘green skills’ has the potential to unlock future-focused competencies among the labour force and the entire global marketplace.


For one thing, ‘green skills’ are a growing concern for individuals and organisations that want to stay ahead of the curve and be resilient.

Hence, they must focus their attention and efforts on driving the adoption of ‘green skills.’ On top of that, some believe the way forward is through a skills-based approach to greening the global workforce.

By considering climate-related jobs as collections of skills, precisely ‘green skills,’ we can expand the available talent pool to solve the climate crisis. Just think about it: investing in ‘green skills’ development makes business sense and saves the planet.

There are many pockets of exciting momentum, but we are still precariously far from the needed scale of change. It is important to note that green skills are not unique to certain positions or occupations but will affect how organisations operate in the future. Let’s hope that ‘green skills’ have finally become our zeitgeist.

In conclusion, this brings us to the words of Stefan Praschl of WorldSkills, who stated, “Every skill needs to be a green skill.”


City&Guilds. Green Skills and Sustainability.

Deloitte. Transforming your organisation for the green economy.

Economist Impact (2023). A Green edge: Green skills for the future.

European Training Foundation (EFT). Green skills.

European Union (2023). European Climate Pact: Green skills.

LinkedIn Economic Graph (2023). Global Green Skills Report 2023.

PWC (2023). Green skills for a green economy.

UNFCCC (2023). Why are Green Skills important for Youth?

UNIDO (2023). What are green skills?

About the Writers:


Romein  is a (self-confessed) Pan-Africanist by heart. Romein is a sustainability warrior, and he is multi-disciplinary professional with experience in various sectors. Contact him via ([email protected])


Ebenezer||Development Communicator|PR|Green Finance| Sustainability nomad|| [email protected]


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