At a glance
The climate crisis poses one of humankind’s greatest existential challenges – but it also presents innumerable opportunities.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates the green economy could create 24 million jobs worldwide by 2030.
According to LinkedIn’s Global Green Skills Report 2022, the share of “green talent” in the global workforce has increased by 38.5 per cent between 2015 and 2021, from 9.6 per cent to 13.3 per cent.
In the US, the number of jobs in the renewables and environment sector has increased by 237 per cent, compared to just 19 per cent in oil and gas.
Green skills are also in demand, with ecosystem management, environmental policy and pollution prevention leading the charge.
Yet “the vast majority of green skills are being used in jobs that aren’t traditionally thought of as green – such as fleet managers, data scientists or health workers”, says Ryan Roslansky, CEO of LinkedIn.
Richard Evans, managing director of sustainable recruitment agency Talent Nation, says he has seen the rise of green jobs accelerate in the last five years.
“Employees want to work for a company that is positively contributing to society or the environment, and customers want to procure products from organisations that are doing the right thing,” Evans says.
Amplifying this consumer-led trend is interest from the finance and investment communities.
“Super funds, private equity and venture capital are looking to make solid investment decisions in organisations, and ESG credentials are becoming increasingly important.
“Companies need to have a climate change strategy. They need to take into account global warming and the impact that it will have on their infrastructure and assets,” Evans says.
A boom in ESG
Accounting and finance have a key role in the green economy, providing independent assurance over climate reporting and disclosures.
Caroline Mara is an assurance partner focusing on ESG reporting and governance at PwC Australia.
“There’s never been a more exciting time to be in the profession,” Mara says.
“It’s such a great opportunity for finance and accounting professionals because this is something so new.”
The ESG sector is undergoing dramatic growth. “We’re on the cusp of substantive change,” she says.
“At the moment, there are no mandatory reporting requirements for corporates, but that’s coming very quickly.”
Accountants and finance professionals’ analytical skill set aligns well with the demands of applying new sustainability standards.
“Accountants have the right skill set – it’s about how they use those skills within the organisation to get the information in the right form for accurate, transparent, complete reporting – so staying ahead of the new standards that are coming and what they mean – and developing the [required] technical ESG-related skills and methodology,” Mara says.
The evolving ESG landscape requires “a real push in the education space” at all organisational levels across leadership and strategy, governance, communications and marketing, as well as the technical aspects of ESG service delivery, she says.
ESG resources, tools and training
New jobs in the green economy
“Five years ago, there was no such thing as an ESG manager or a head of ESG,” says Evans.
A role that increasingly encompasses data management, it has prompted unprecedented demand for ESG analysts – an opportunity for candidates with transferable skills in data and analytics.
“We’re seeing a lot more roles focused on disclosures,” Evans says.
“Investors know a lot more about the space, and they’re asking much more challenging questions of companies, so there’s a need for people within an organisation to be across the climate data and human rights data.”
Other growth areas Evans highlights are sustainable procurement and ethical sourcing, driven by the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 in Australia.
According to Patrick Viljoen, senior manager ESG at CPA Australia, “the demand for accountants with ESG skills will intensify as the focus broadens from climate change to nature-related disclosures including biodiversity and ecosystems, and momentum around the social attributes of business gathers pace.”
“The accounting profession is currently building its capability to measure, report and assure climate risks, but much more is required,” he says.
“There’s a global shortage of accounting professionals, not just those with ESG capabilities. This may hamper ESG skills development within the profession.”
Advice for accountants and finance professionals
A career in sustainability can take many guises.
“Knowing how organisations can create value through sustainability is an essential 21st century skill for accounting professionals,” says Viljoen.
“Organisations are increasingly required to report on their approach to sustainability. In some jurisdictions this is being driven by mandatory disclosure requirements, while in others pressure is being exerted by customers, investors and other key stakeholders.
“This is creating strong demand for ESG credentialled professionals.”
Meanwhile, don’t be deterred by a lack of direct experience in the ESG space.
Evans says it is common to see internal candidates with limited experience in sustainability appointed to senior roles such as chief sustainability officer due to their skills in areas such as strategy and a firm grounding in an organisation’s operation.
Other options include investigating board roles, identifying transferable skills (such as data and analytics) suited to a position in sustainability, and finding a role within an “impact-driven organisation”.
In an environment where funding is often in short supply, “not-for-profits are becoming far more commercial, so there is a need for good financial skills within those organisations”, says Evans.