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Green skills

‘Green skills’ is an umbrella term for the knowledge, behaviours, capabilities and technical skills required to tackle the environmental challenges we face and to unlock new opportunities for growth. 

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Green skills are in demand

It is widely acknowledged that there is a growing demand across all jobs for candidates with green skills. We need to train individuals and plug the green gaps for future generations, to prevent demand outstripping supply.

There are currently major green skills gaps in the UK, and globally, such as in forestry, ecology, sustainability management and electrification.

According to a report by Hays, leading specialist in workforce solutions and recruitment: “Overall, a third of employers (33%) said they expect the need for sustainability specialists and green skills to increase over the next 12 months.”

Furthermore, they state that “97% of those hiring sustainability professionals have experienced skills shortages in the last year.”

Everybody needs green skills

It is evident that certain roles can easily be defined as green, but to ensure that all jobs are greener, everyone will be required to apply green skills in their role. A report by IEMA and Deloitte, A Blueprint for Green Workforce Transformation, identifies four shifts in the transition to a green economy.


Expansion of skills and scope in existing specialist sustainability roles


Increased need for green skills in non-specialist roles


Transition of workforces from unsustainable sectors to new roles


Demand for green skills in new green sectors and organisations

Breaking down green skills

When we talk about skills, it is important to differentiate between technical and transferable skills. Green skills cover both.

Transferable skills

Transferable skills are referenced throughout the Green Careers Hub, and these are the skills that can be applied across a wide range of jobs. Examples here could include strategic thinking, project management, decision-making, leadership, and effective communication. 

Transferable skills, often referred to as soft skills or employability skills, can be applied through formal study and training, but are often developed throughout a career. 

According to a report by the World Economic Forum, “Analytical thinking and creative thinking remain the most important skills for workers in 2023.”

Technical knowledge

Technical knowledge is specialised and specific, often required to perform certain tasks or jobs. Examples here could include an understanding of health and safety, environmental auditing, tree harvesting, and teaching.

Technical skills are often learnt through formal study or training, but can also be learnt on the job.  

The IEMA Sustainability Skills Map

IEMA’s Sustainability Skills Map sets out the knowledge and skills required of sustainability professionals at all stages in their career, including transferable skills. Through engagement with members and employers, we identified 13 knowledge and skill areas that are key for high performing environment and sustainability professionals. The Associate, Graduate, Practitioner, Full and Fellow Membership Standards describe in detail what a member at each grade is expected to know and be able to do.

Video thumbnail: IEMA Skills Map

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IEMA is the membership body for environment and sustainability professionals