ESG training to meet demands of the future

ESG training

There is a rising need for Environmental, Social and Governance training as companies seek to address new regulations that require new skills to meet environmental compliance targets. And while some may view ESG as a current tick-box inconvenience, leading organisations are undergoing vital training to meet the demands of tomorrow and to ensure their commercial future. 

Knowledge and understanding of sustainability is key to the ongoing viability and profitability of business and industry and, across a workforce, will soon be as important as the ability to read, write and count such is the vital need to make sustainability part of a company’s DNA. An increasing number of staff at large organisations will, in one form or another, soon be impacted by ESG issues and activities and, the UK government says, by 2050 more than a million people in England alone will be employed in eco-roles.

Companies seeking to comply with ever-stricter and increasingly complex ESG regulations are now faced with the challenge of rolling out company-wide training in order to meet targets and create an eco-aware compliance-based culture across their organisation.

The major challenge companies face is how to train a workforce at scale quickly enough, Nicola Stopps, CEO of Simply Sustainable says. “Requirements of ESG reporting are changing fast and will continue to do so as the dimensions of sustainability evolve with things like the circular economy and strict supply chain regulation that is forcing companies to adapt their business models.

“Change is driving a huge increase in demand for sustainability skills but qualification isn’t enough, what’s needed most urgently is experience because ESG and sustainability isn’t just one skill set it’s very holistic and you need experience to properly address the many complex demands now being made by regulation. A good training provider will draw upon years of first-hand experience and tailor this to the individual needs of an organisation.”

ESG training is key to the future

Training provides two key functions; one is serving your company needs today and the other is serving your company’s needs for tomorrow. ESG training is needed to address current business objectives as they apply to existing environmental regulation and to prepare the company for what will be increasingly strict regulatory and economic demands of the future.

“ESG training is not so much about corporate social responsibility professionals that still need ongoing training but a matter of how to embed sustainability within each and every job role,” Antoine Poincare, VP Axa Climate School says. “You’re going to need to embed sustainability into every level of the organisation from the boardroom to finance and from transport departments to HR and IT teams. People have to know what ESG means and how they can apply their roles and activities to that. You’re also going to need PR people that know how to avoid accusations of greenwashing and to be honest in how they communicate the company’s environmental compliance message.”

ESG starts at the top and core knowledge is essential for executives. The C-suite needs to understand that sustainability is both a key risk for the business and an opportunity for value creation as well. Addressing the many elements of ESG is vital to understanding what the business will look like and operate and thrive in a decarbonised world.

“You may have a very enlightened board who are making great decisions and asking the right questions about environmental, society and governance issues but you’ve also got to ensure that you are setting your teams up to succeed,” Stopps says. “So the company needs the right training that fits the leadership strategy and embeds the importance of sustainability into every aspect of how the company operates.”

Staff training to meet key targets

New regulation requires the setting and meeting of targets so establishing a realistic timeframe is key to efficient eco-awareness transition in order to avoid inter-departmental tensions and log-jams. The change in company culture can see each department trying to pull the topic and the budgets their way in order to create their own centre of gravity. It is important therefore to establish clear timelines in terms of targets and responsibilities so departments can operate collaboratively and effectively within clear guidelines.

It is important also to ensure that everyone knows how swift the change will be and exactly how they will have to change the way they operate, Poincaré suggests. “People need to know what’s coming and how to integrate it into company practice. In addition to elements like the use of transport and energy you need to make people aware of the environmental impact of IT devices, data servers and web services because they all contribute to an organisation’s carbon footprint and their use involves everyone. It’s about creating a common culture and making sure everyone pulls in the same direction.”

Language is also a key factor as there can often be confusion around the terms used in ESG with people unsure exactly what social-inclusion, gender-neutrality or governance means, or the difference between things like net zero, carbon offsetting and low emissions. For training to be effective it is important to establish and use common terms, definitions and points of knowledge so that everyone is talking and working to the same language. Effective ESG training can build a common culture of understanding throughout an organisation that is essential to effective eco-awareness and regulatory compliance.

Change does not come easy but the need for such a fundamental shift in priorities resources and finance, as those involved in sustainability, is nothing new. Business and industry have undergone many periods of profound change and there is a parallel between disruptive digital transformation of the late eighties and the race to net zero transformation today; it is all about how you manage change.

“ESG is an evolving requirement and we’re still in the infancy of change,” Poincaré says. “Training addresses vital environmental and compliance issues but, equally importantly, it’s also about change management for the whole organisation. What companies train for today will prepare them for the demands of tomorrow.”

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