Companies are setting ambitious climate goals. But they can’t find qualified talent to help meet these commitments

September 28, 2022, 11:35 AM UTC
Two workers looking at model wind turbines.
Sixty-four percent of workers say they’d consider applying for a sustainability job at their company if they had the skills, according to a Salesforce survey.

Good morning! Paolo Confino here, filling in for Amber Burton.

Despite being the subject of much controversy, ESG is now an integral part of corporate strategy, representing a fundamental shift in how companies plan to do business. But that shift might be a pipe dream without the right talent in place to support it.

A new survey conducted by Salesforce finds that businesses are grappling with a severe shortage of qualified applicants for sustainability-related jobs, making the already onerous task of hitting ESG goals that much more daunting. But there is a silver lining: Existing employees are already onboard the ESG train. It’s now up to employers to actively train and harness their talent to achieve ambitious—and very public—environmental targets.  

Insights from Salesforce show that employees are buying into newfound ESG priorities as much as executives, with eight in 10 saying they want to help their companies reach their sustainability goals. However, the struggle for employers is clear—82% of surveyed knowledge workers say companies’ ESG efforts are hampered by an inability to find skilled talent. 

But leaders should be encouraged by the share of employees who are eager to develop the skills necessary for sustainability work. Two-thirds of survey respondents say they want to improve their own sustainability qualifications, while 64% say they’d consider applying for a sustainability job at their company if they had the skills. 

If employers want to narrow the ESG talent gap, they will have to harness employees’ willingness to upskill, which will take more than a few lunch-and-learns. 

Certain aspects of corporate sustainability such as decarbonizing supply chains or mastering the reporting methods used to track ESG progress, require technical skills that have only recently become part of the job responsibilities. 

Employers will also see a cultural benefit: 94% of respondents say more training on sustainability skills would help them build trust in companies’ sustainability commitments. And building that trust is crucial. Employees generally have more trust in other companies than their own. While 60% of respondents say they feel confident their company will reach its environmental goals in the timeframe it laid out, 80% believe other companies will be able to achieve their goals. 

The takeaway: Start training internal talent early to help reach those sustainability targets. Otherwise, employees might look elsewhere. 

Paolo Confino

Reporter's Notebook

The most compelling data, quotes, and insights from the field.

ICYMI. The Great Resignation is still very much a thing. Earlier this week, Fortune’s Chloe Berger checked back in on the issue and found that employees’ propensity to leave a company is still strong despite increased economic volatility. In fact, it might be because of it. Money remains top of mind for recent job switchers, many of whom are from lower-income households and have been hit hard by rising inflation. 

“While some managers predicted (or hoped) that a possible recession would scare employees away from demanding more from their company or quitting, the Great Resignation has yet to abate,” writes Berger. “There have been recent signs that it’s been slowing down, but more workers are still looking for a new job than they were last year.”

Read the full story here.

Around the Table

- The U.S. has lost almost a million “pink collar” jobs—roles traditionally held by women—since the start of the pandemic. They include nurses, childcare workers, and teachers. The Atlantic

- Airports nationwide are preparing for worker strikes as food-service employees and flight attendants protest a lack of adequate pay and staffing. Washington Post

- The latest return-to-office roadblock? Inflation. Between lunch, commuting, and coffee in the morning, it can cost employees about $37 per day to head into the office. Financial Times

- Climate startups are recruiting from an unlikely talent pool: academics. Scientists say it takes time getting used to the “move fast and break things” world of startups, but the chance to work on actionable solutions is too good to pass up. Protocol 

- General Motors walked back its return-to-office plans after employees voiced displeasure with its proposed minimum of three days a week in office. GM will now leave the decision to individual managers. CNBC


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Waste of time. Pointless meetings cost companies an average of $25,000 per employee every year, according to a study from the online transcription service That means companies with 100 employees would save $2.5 million annually, while those with 5,000 employees would save a whopping $100 million per year. —Chloe Taylor

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This is the web version of CHRO Daily, a newsletter focusing on helping HR executives navigate the needs of the workplace. Today’s edition was curated by Paolo Confino. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

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