- Global research from Economist Impact, supported by Iberdrola, finds that the overwhelming majority (79%) of business leaders agree green skills will be the most important driver of the green transition, yet just 55% are implementing or planning to implement green skills programmes for their workforce
- A large proportion of the global workforce is being left without crucial training in the skills necessary for a greener economy, risking progress on the green transition
- The green transition is expected to have a net-positive impact on jobs creation, with benefits seen in clean energy, electrification, energy efficiency and research and development
- Nearly 80% of business leaders believe the green transition presents more opportunities than challenges for their companies
- 62% agree green skills shortages could become a bottleneck slowing down the green transition
Davos, 17th January 2024: Most business leaders believe that responsibility for driving the green transition rests with the private sector rather than policymakers, with the vast majority anticipating more opportunities than challenges. However, rapid progress to a lower carbon economy is under threat from the failure of companies to develop and source sufficient green skills, according to the Green Skills Outlook – new research from Economist Impact, supported by Europe’s largest electricity company, Iberdrola.
The research explores the impact of the green transition on global labour markets and is based on a scoping literature review and data audit, a global survey of 1,000 business leaders, sector-specific workshops, and the convening of an advisory board of subject-matter experts. It looks at nine countries and four sectors of the economy playing a central role in the green transition, including IT and Technology, Construction and Infrastructure, Transport and Logistics and Energy and Utilities.
Despite an overwhelming majority (79%) of business leaders agreeing that skills will be the most important driver of the green transition, just 55% are implementing or planning to implement relevant programmes to create these for their workforce.
This leaves a large proportion of the workforce without training in the skills necessary for a greener economy, and risks obstructing progress on the green transition, at a time when it is gaining urgency in order to tackle the climate crisis and enhance energy security.
Accordingly, the Green Skills Outlook found that 62% of global business leaders say shortages in green skills will create bottlenecks that will delay the green transition.
Green transition will have net-positive impact on job creation
As greener industries gain prominence, the Green Skills Outlook shows that business leaders are overwhelmingly optimistic about the green transition, with 79% saying it presents more opportunities than challenges for their organisation.
European business leaders, albeit generally optimistic, show a slightly more cautious stance. Smaller majorities of survey respondents in the UK (68%), Germany (72%), France (74%), and Spain (75%) were confident that opportunities will surpass challenges compared to near unanimity (94%) in Brazil and China (94%).
However, the green transition is expected to have a net-positive impact on job creation, with particular benefits seen in clean energy, electrification, energy efficiency and research and development.
Almost three quarters (73%) of respondents agreed that the green transition will create more jobs than it eliminates, and 81% say that it will create higher-quality jobs for workers.
At a global level, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates the transition could lead to 25 million net new jobs by 2030, particularly in green sectors and activities. For example, in the energy sector, the expansion and maintenance of electricity grids and storage facilities provides millions of additional jobs around the world, up to 3,500 jobs per 100,000 jobs in Europe.
The growing demand for green skills across the economy
The green transition will require all workers to acquire green skills – not just those working in explicitly green roles. Such skills will range from non-vocational, non-technical soft skills that are needed to excel in green jobs, to more technical, role-specific skills. For example, over a third (38%) of respondents in the Energy sector identified smart grid implementation as one of the most important green skills to enabling their organisation’s green transition.
More broadly, the most important cross-sectoral green skills are sustainability and disclosure reporting (39%), environmental impact assessment (35%) and sustainability compliance (32%). However, skills in compliance and disclosure, and reporting remain some of the most challenging to source. In addition, soft skills will be important to supporting business leaders’ efforts in transitioning their businesses towards greener ways of working. The top three which businesses are looking for are environmental awareness (45%), innovation and creativity (37%), and problem solving (31%).
Innovative strategies from governments, educational institutions and the private sector are required to bridge emerging green skills gaps
The Green Skills Outlook shows that there is overwhelming positivity for the green transition from business leaders globally, and two thirds (63%) say responsibility for leading it ultimately lies with them, over policymakers.
However, bridging emerging gaps in green skills will be imperative to driving the transition forward, and will require coordination and innovative strategies on the part of governments, educational institutions, and the private sector.
The role of government policy in fostering the green transition cannot be overstated. The top three policies that business leaders think should be prioritised to ensure the supply of green skills in the labour market meets the needs of the green transition are:
- Support for businesses’ investment in up-skilling and re-skilling programmes (e.g. through grants or tax relief) (53%)
- Support for the establishment of green skills courses at educational institutions (e.g. through strategic funding) (49%)
- Adapting existing work and training programmes for the unemployed to increase the emphasis on and support for green skills (46%)
As well as introducing active labour market policies that nurture the supply of green skills, in the longer term, governments will need to create an enabling environment that incentivises the greening of the economy more broadly. Such as through stricter standards, putting a price on emissions, and removing subsidies for polluting industries, such as fossil fuels.
Ignacio Galán, Iberdrola’s Executive Chairman, says:
“The opportunities presented by the transition are vast, but it is critical that both businesses and policymakers are sharply focused now on ensuring people are equipped with the right skills and training. Without skilled workers, the transition will not be delivered, and the benefits will not be realised.
“As the world emerges from COP with a clear focus on phasing out fossil fuels, as well as tripling renewables in six years, every company in every sector is fully aware that change is coming fast.
“Those who plan well will lead and be at the forefront of the transition. For two decades at Iberdrola we have been helping workers and industries to refocus and retrain to make the most of the green transition. We have helped aeronautics companies to take the lead in wind power, shipbuilders to diversify into offshore wind fabrication, and oil and gas workers to retain their offshore expertise, but switching to renewables.
“Iberdrola and the energy sector also have much more to do, and we are not standing still. We continue to work with schools, universities and policymakers across the world, as well as delivering our own new initiatives, such as the Global Green Employment platform, and cross-sector initiatives, such as Reskilling 4 Employment. In producing this Outlook we also now have detailed thoughts from a thousand business leaders across the world, giving us valuable insight into where the pinch points are and how they can be addressed.”
Commenting on the demand for green skills, Kevin Nilsen, President of ECO Canada, says: “All individuals will need to acquire green skills – if a person doesn’t have basic green literacy skills, they won’t be able to effectively carry out their role.”
On the role of different stakeholders in the green transition, Simon Schmid at SkillLab emphasises, “What is important is having an ecosystem that enables communication and alignment between educational institutions, employers and governments.”
Matus Samel, Senior manager and the Green Skills Outlook programme lead at Economist Impact, says: “We see green skills as the key to a just and equitable transition to a more sustainable economy. The Greek Skills Outlook highlights that much more needs to be done across private and public sectors in advanced as well as emerging economies to enable workers and communities to participate in this crucial transition.”
To view the Green Skills Outlook, visit:
Homepage/ Report: https://impact.economist.com/sustainability/green-skills-outlook/
- Infographic: https://impact.economist.com/sustainability/green-skills-outlook/infographic
- Article URL: https://impact.economist.com/sustainability/green-skills-outlook/articles/new-green-energy-economy
For more information about the Green Skills Outlook or to arrange interviews, please contact: [email protected]
The Green skills: driving the transition to a more sustainable future programme has drawn upon several strands of research: a comprehensive literature review and data audit; an international survey of business leaders from nine countries; four sector-specific workshops; and the convening of an advisory board of subject-matter experts. Altogether we surveyed more than 1,050 business executives and consulted over 50 experts from the private and public sectors and academia. We would like to express our gratitude to all of the participants in our workshops and advisory board for the invaluable role that they have played in our research. Definition of green skills: the knowledge, competencies, values and attributes needed to develop and support a sustainable, low-carbon and resource-efficient society. We distinguish between three broad categories of green skill: soft, cross-sectoral and sector-specific skills.
About Economist Impact
Economist Impact combines the rigor of a think-tank with the creativity of a media brand to engage a globally influential audience. We believe that evidence-based insights can open debate, broaden perspectives, and catalyse progress. The services offered by Economist Impact previously existed within The Economist Group as separate entities, including EIU Thought Leadership, EIU Public Policy, EIU Health Policy, Economist Events and SignalNoise.
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Iberdrola, Europe’s largest electricity utility by market capitalization, and one of the world’s top three electricity companies, is a leader in renewables, spearheading the energy transition to a low carbon economy. The group supplies energy to almost 100 million people in dozens of countries. With a focus on renewable energy, smart networks and smart solutions for customers, Iberdrola’s main markets include Europe (Spain, the United Kingdom, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy and Greece), the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. The company is also present in growth markets such as Japan, Taiwan, Ireland, Sweden and Poland, among others.
The company has a workforce of over 41,500 and assets of approximately of €146 billion. In 2022, Iberdrola posted revenues of nearly €54 billion, net profit of €4.34 billion, with €7.5 billion paid in tax contributions in the countries where it operates. The company helps to support more than 400,000 jobs in communities across its supply chain, and global supplier purchases topped €17.8 billion in 2022. A benchmark in the fight against climate change, Iberdrola has invested more than €150 billion over the past two decades to help build a sustainable energy model, based on sound environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles.