The ESG News Review: Are we entering a golden age of ESG skills demand?

A cynic might be forgiven for suggesting that’s something a recruitment company might write.

But if you had your ear to the ground over the past week or so, there has been plenty going on to suggest that the need for people with both depth and breadth of ESG expertise is seeing a genuine surge, rather than just being the subject of frothy copy.

Not just steadily-growing requirements, not just a sudden burst of interest given the need to reset and reshape beyond the pandemic, and not just in reaction to recent stories that have given prominence to activist investing.

And note the words golden age, rather than gold rush: if you get under the surface of the skills in high demand and the capabilities large businesses are trying to build or expand, roles that deliver on ESG promises are themselves looking sustainable, rather than transitory.

This piece in the Financial Times – which is all over ESG stories at the moment – proclaimed that ‘Sustainable investing boom and net zero pledges drive ESG talent war’. It’s an article not based on a survey as communicators might expect, but featuring several perspectives that all seem to point in one direction – the need to demonstrate clear and measurable progress against ESG goals, particularly carbon reduction ones, means that professionals with skills for delivering just that are now highly-prized. And above, all, it’s investor pressure that is driving the requirement.

That does mean people with scientific, analytical and change management expertise. But it also means communicators who can help to shape that evolution by driving engagement around the action required and being taken.

Meanwhile, another FT piece today outlined how considerations and “tensions” around ESG issues are becoming more complex. One of those considerations in the UK was a Government announcement earlier this week that firms must commit to net-zero carbon change to win public contracts.

And in a prospective tension the BBC recently reported that the mining sector – under pressure on multiple ESG fronts from large investors for several years – is going to need to see more activity in order for the world to achieve net-zero. The sector itself is rushing to prove its green credentials to sceptical investors, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Finally, in a move that is surely in no way political, at G7 leaders gathered in Cornwall for their summit, it was announced that it was to become Britain’s first net-zero area (though Cornwall was a county last time I checked, and so should presumably be referenced thus).

With the ever-increasing complexity of ESG, the ever-increasing need to convince investors that change is in hand on carbon in particular, and the need for sustainable action, that golden age of skills demand headline doesn’t seem too much of a stretch.

The ESG News Review is written by Steve Earl, a Partner at BOLDT.

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