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March 22, 2023

Upskill and educate to act on climate pledges

A climate-competent workforce is essential to meeting climate goals. Here’s how to create a successful climate skills program.

Enabling sustainable operations could create millions of jobs. But the world doesn’t have enough talent to meet this burgeoning need and address the scale of change required for an environmentally sustainable economy.

This shortage of professionals is creating bottlenecks in the clean energy transition and hurting companies that are working to modernize business and operating models. The solution: Develop, a climate-competent workforce that can engineer relevant, sustainable solutions.

Dealing with this talent shortage requires companies to go beyond measuring environmental impacts. Climate pledge progress reports don’t necessarily change corporate behaviors, and they definitely don’t create climate-competent employees. Achieving these goals requires companies to reskill and upskill employees with comprehensive climate education programs.

Building climate competencies

Climate-competent workforces can drive adoption of environmentally sustainable practices while helping businesses compete effectively as the global economy grows ever greener. That’s why companies must offer this critical education. The prerequisites for a successful program include:

  • Recognize the competencies needed to build a differently skilled, climate-smart workforce. Climate competency goes beyond specialized expertise. It requires systems thinking—seeing and planning across silos. For example, a product designer must think about sources of materials; extraction, transportation and production emissions; sustainable packaging; and product end-of-life renewal, reusability or recycling. While the designer doesn’t need to be expert in each area, they must know the questions to ask and the best answers. Education will build that competency.

  • Make training available to every employee. Understanding the basics of low-carbon and circular economies will help all employees prepare for and participate in the new commercial solutions emerging.

  • Think role by role. We can then go further with role-specific climate training. For example, what issues lie below the surface for procurement employees? Or employees in sales or marketing? By digging into role-specific training, businesses can equip employees to proactively find solutions to their job’s climate and sustainability issues.

    Our multi-tiered climate education at Cognizant is designed to fill this spectrum. It ranges from building climate literacy to unique training for climate-sensitive best practices in specific business functions.

  • Target next-gen talent with climate upskilling and reskilling. Millennials and Gen Z members will make up 72% of the global workforce by 2030. The climate tops their worry list. And they look for employers with good climate records. Yet, this generation doesn’t feel equipped with the right climate skills. They want—and require—education and training. Offering training in these hot skills will attract and retain top talent.

  • Align executive practices with climate messages. Current and prospective employees can quickly spot corporate environmental hypocrisy. Executives must implement the climate practices they preach.

  • Tap existing skilling and platform vendors. Good curriculum already exists for basic climate literacy and position-specific training. Don’t delay efforts by reinventing the wheel.

  • Act on new employee climate perspectives. Be ready to evaluate and follow through on employees’ climate-related ideas and insights. These could range from contracting with new suppliers to rethinking an existing product or service.

Large companies have the power to educate hundreds of thousands of employees about climate science and mitigation efforts. Developing a climate-competent workforce is a key way for businesses to lead on climate mitigation. It’s also good risk management. Employees with these critical skills will help build future-ready, sustainable businesses.

Cognizant Insights Team

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