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How to address the green skills gap in your organisation

Gary Ruffhead CQP MCQI examines the role of quality infrastructure in addressing the green skills gap.

The transition to a green economy will add an estimated 60m new jobs to the market by 2030. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO): ‘The green transition can generate millions of jobs, but these are conditional on the availability of relevant skills and training.’

In its global report, Skills for a greener future: a global report, the ILO defines ‘green jobs’ as decent jobs that contribute to, preserve or restore the environment.

So, how can a quality infrastructure help address the global green skills gap?

What can quality professionals do?

Perhaps the obvious route is via ISO 14001:2015 Environmental management systems – Requirements with guidance for use. According to ISO's interpretation of LinkedIn's Global Green Skills Report 2022, knowledge of this standard was identified as one of the top 10 skills added to LinkedIn member profiles during the past five years.

The latest ISO survey of the number of valid ISO 14001 certificates, in December 2021, shows there are 420,433 worldwide. In the UK alone, there are 17,378.

One of the main requirements of the ISO 14001 standard is to determine the environmental aspects of an organisation’s activities, products and services that it can control and those that it can influence, considering a lifecycle perspective. It also takes into account abnormal conditions, such as strikes, and emergency situations, such as shortages.

From experience, many micro-businesses and SMEs struggle to define and/or articulate their lifecycle. The implication could be that some aspects and associated impacts are being missed.

Another requirement is to determine, by using established criteria, those aspects that have or can have a significant impact. These criteria can relate to the environmental aspect, for example type, size, frequency, or the environmental impact, such as scale, severity, duration and exposure.

Again, from experience, some organisations are not using any criteria. They instead state that all aspects are significant, in an attempt to address everything with the same priority or sense of urgency.

Considering the outcomes

Simply stating everything as significant – quite apart from not meeting the requirement of the standard – is not practical. Most businesses will only have a finite amount of resource to deliver the intended outcomes of their environmental management system (EMS), which are:

  • enhancement of environmental performance and the protection of the environment;

  • fulfilment of compliance obligations;

  • continual enhancement of its environmental management system to achieve its environmental objectives.

The root cause for not understanding this topic can be down to several factors, from a poorly designed phased implementation of an EMS to using a non-accredited certification.

Use only official interpretation to demonstrate conformity; short courses can be designed to transfer knowledge and understanding in a simple and concise way for those businesses that want a greater depth of understanding for considering a lifecycle perspective.

Sustainable development as a goal is achieved by balancing the three pillars of sustainability. This has led organisations to adopt a systematic approach to environmental management by implementing EMSs with the aim of contributing to the environmental pillar of sustainability.

Consideration of a lifecycle perspective can be achieved by looking at impacts across functions, activities and locations (if multiple sites), what you control and/or influence, and by considering if a situation is normal, abnormal or an emergency.

Looking at opportunities in the supply chain, such as outsourcing, suppliers and/or subcontracting, and adopting a benchmarked impacts model can also help.


The aim and outcome of the above topics are to help prioritise. Once the significance is known, resources, skills and qualifications can be properly considered with confidence in the context of meeting the organisation’s objectives.

Only when the business has considered a lifecycle perspective that truly reflects its profile and its own presence in the supply chain, can it be used as a pathway in addressing the green skills gap.

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