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IEMA Guest Blog: Green Jobs and Skills in Healthcare

Your entire workforce will need to support better environmental outcomes to ensure your organisation can survive and thrive in a green economy.

Environmental sustainability is vital to improving public health, especially as healthcare itself has a significant environmental impact that urgently needs to be addressed. According to NHS England and Improvement, the NHS is the UK’s biggest public greenhouse gas emitter, responsible for around 5% of all UK environmental emissions.

I recently attended the Universities and Healthcare Estates and Innovation (UHEI) conference in Edinburgh. There, were a range of people from across the UK healthcare and university sector who talked about the ambitions and challenges they are facing working towards their net zero ambitions.

Many speakers and delegates agreed they needed far more green skills throughout their organisations, from senior leadership to front-line staff and their wider supply chains. Green skills requirements go much further than just sustainability. For example, many employees within departments need to be able to gather and interpret data to help them understand the environmental impacts of activities, or the procurement team will need to understand the importance of the circular economy and the carbon impact of what they are buying. By selecting the most suitable solutions which ‘design out’ waste and pollution, stay in use for longer, and use natural systems, they are then in turn contributing to the circular economy. 

This resonates strongly with the team here at IEMA as we recognise the importance and challenges faced by individuals and organisations defining, developing, and accessing green jobs and skills. As the largest professional body in the UK for those studying, interested or working in environment and sustainability roles, we aim to provide access to skills and training for a growing number of professionals across all roles and industry sectors.

In the same week that these conversations were taking place in Edinburgh, it was also a notable one in the IEMA diary for two other reasons relating to green jobs and skills:

Firstly, on the 28th April the Skills and Post-16 Education Act became law. This new act will help transform the skills and training landscape and level up opportunities across the country.

IEMA are delighted to see that the skills to support the growing green economy will be prioritised to create a workforce for jobs now and in the future.

The legislation will help economic recovery and growth by making it easier for people to get the skills they need to secure well-paid jobs in industries with skills gaps, such as health and social care, engineering, digital, clean energy, and manufacturing.

Key measures introduced by the act include prioritising green skills so the training on offer across the country meets the needs of the growing green economy and helps to get more people into jobs.  This talks to the heart of IEMA’s second notable diary entry, our own report, recently published  in partnership with Deloitte; A blueprint for a green workforce transformation. 

This report was the culmination of six months’ work, to develop a series of tools to help organisations assess the readiness of their staff to participate in the ‘green economy’ and to identify practical steps that can be taken to increase preparedness.   

Crucially, this report isn’t just about increasing the number of sustainability roles that exist across the economy. It is also about ensuring that sustainability skills exist in roles that support better environmental outcomes for example in marketing, sales, finance, and procurement. Something that members of the ABHI should consider given that HealthTech is a key partner to the NHS.  Increasingly, the NHS will be looking to partners for support to deliver their sustainability ambitions. You will need your employees to have the green skills to design effective solutions and articulate their environmental impacts and benefits in sales, marketing, and account management functions, to name a few.

What do we mean by green skills?

Green skills is a broad term used to refer to the technical skills, knowledge, behaviours, and capabilities required to tackle the environmental challenges we face. While specific jobs and roles might not be directly framed in terms of delivering sustainable or environmental outcomes they are, nonetheless, capable of contributing to those outcomes.

Green skills will play a key role across all jobs and functions as we transition to net zero and building these capabilities will mean organisations can survive and thrive in a green economy.  

As deadlines for net zero get ever closer and the Doomsday clock continues to hover over 100 seconds to midnight, organisations need to ask themselves how diverse jobs and roles within their workforce can have ‘green’ skills embedded with them, whether working in estates, HR, procurement roles or any other job family. There is a responsibility across all organisations to ensure that jobs and roles are transforming, to meet the climate and environmental emergencies head-on.  

The report, tools and matrices are available here.

Jo Watson, Head of Corporate Partnerships, IEMA