Communication and transparency are important right now. It is useful to share perspectives and information. Brevity is also important as there is a lot for us all to do, so here is a short update of Acre’s observations on how the Sustainability & Climate Change profession look like during, and after, COVID-19.
How is the current situation impacting the employment market?
Some organisations and industries have been hit hard by coronavirus, and our thoughts are with them, but there are plenty of organisations that have the opportunity to keep on trading unimpeded, or that may see a benefit from the current scenario. We have observed the following:
Existing recruitment processes have generally continued: About 80% of companies have continued their hiring processes despite the challenging backdrop. The number of interviews we are organizing has not dipped – probably aided by the ease of video technology.
Companies are making hiring decisions based on video conference interviews: The majority of companies are willing to make hiring decisions based on videoconference interviews, so as not to lose momentum in recruitment processes
Purpose-driven jobs are still being created: Albeit at a reduced level, we have continued to take on a number of exceptional new assignments across all our global territories. We will continue to post these on our website and on LinkedIn, where appropriate.
What is the long-term outlook for the professions?
Our work focuses on system-level issues that need to be addressed over years, not months – in the wake of coronavirus these challenges will remain. What’s more, the current status quo is likely to galvanize a move towards a more sustainable global economic model.
The market has been growing: Over the past two years, Acre has experienced an acceleration in the growth of the sustainability employment market, driven by heightened corporate engagement, grass-roots mobilization, increased consumer awareness, regulatory pressure, and commitments that span borders, such as the Paris Climate Agreement.
There has also been a shift in the focus of the investment community for even greater standards of board accountability on how their business is adapting to a two-degree climate scenario.
Commitment to climate change is high: Whilst the 2008 recession reduced commitment to climate issues (some companies were recruiting Climate Change Directors prior to this point), climate change mitigation and adaptation is much more embedded in the makeup of our socioeconomic systems now, and as many have observed, the coronavirus epidemic may serve to enhance this further.
Opportunities will emerge: The 2008 recession had other positive impacts for the sustainability profession. For instance, companies began to look at how to achieve financial efficiencies within their businesses. For this reason, we experienced an enhanced demand for energy managers as companies looked to reduce their energy costs. The sustainability profession is diverse; amongst issues such as wellbeing, business ethics, supply chain, and circular economy there will be areas that are not only well sheltered but become more critical over the coming months.
Sustainability as a profession may be enhanced: Beyond 2008, companies who were focussed on achieving longevity began to evolve their perception of sustainability away from a CSR and public relations exercise, to a core strategic opportunity and a driver of business innovation. In an environment of challenge and constraint, it was inevitable that sustainability would have to account for itself.
The importance of sustainability is likely to be enhanced again, particularly as this time the issue is caused by a specific challenge that our profession will have a role in tackling.
Healthy, safe and well citizens: Inside and outside of business, there will be enhanced scrutiny of how people were treated during this time. Since the rise of social media and the public outcry at footage from events such as the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2003, the world will be looking at how workforces and supply chains have been protected from both a health and an economic perspective. An increased value will be placed on functions that support this endeavour.
What is our collective role?
Companies and those who lead them have an obligation to play a positive and constructive role in supporting society to navigate the temporary challenge that we face. Our role is as follows:
To stay focused on the challenges we address: Coronavirus has swept across society quickly, so its effect is obvious – however the impacts of climate change, ocean plastics, loss of biodiversity, poor air quality and human rights are enduring issues which pose enormous challenges and threats. It is essential not to lose sight of this.
To mobilize our teams to support: The sustainability profession has been responsible for the greatest feats of industrial collaboration in history (think multi stakeholder-initiatives) and we must collectively leverage this experience now – we all have a responsibility to support each other at times like this. Please pick up the phone if we can support you or provide information which will help with your personal decision making. We are enriched, energized and humbled by the open dialogues we are having with our clients and stakeholders.
To instill confidence in the market: To the best of our ability, we will continue to take a business-as-usual approach. At Acre, we are supporting our employees, sharing our progress with the market, and exploring how we can adapt in certain areas where market constraints currently exist.
Our pace remains the same – our profession’s remit is vital to societal and environmental adaptation and we will press ahead with full commitment.
Andy Cartland, Founder / Director Acre