Green skills a priority for sustainable industry development
Green skills must be given priority if the world is to achieve sustainable development, said panelists in the green skills section of the WorldSkills Conference 2021.
The panel discussion started with Lee Hee Dong, a CNC Milling engineer at Samsung Electronics, quoting the United Nations Industrial Development Organization's definition for green skills as "the knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society." Lee is also a regional representative for Asia in the WorldSkills Champions Trust.
"My generation needs to lead the way in taking individual responsibility for making the word greener and urging industry to do the same," he said. "Young people want to contribute to a greener economy, find fulfillment, work for companies whose green values align with our own."
Olga Strietska-Ilina, senior skills and employability specialist with the International Labor Organization, said the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the labor market for all work, including green jobs.
She said in 2020 alone, 9 percent of working hours globally had been lost – equal to 255 million full-time jobs.
But she also said the ILO was glad to see employers' higher intentions in green skilling.
She said it was encouraging to see governments, regions and international organizations putting green recovery and green job on their agenda.
These included the UN Climate Change Action for Jobs Initiative, the IMF conditioning its financial support to invest in emergency loans in green sectors, and the European Green Deal which aims to make Europe climate neutral by 2050.
Dejene Tezera, director of the Department of Agri-Business of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, said the pandemic has accelerated the debate around sustainability, circularity, efficient resource management, and the necessity to create sustainable, circular and innovative business models.
"The shift to the green economy will also require a skilled workforce," he said.
He said this included skills in low carbon, environmental goods, services, industry, sustainable agriculture, manufacturing, renewable energy, biodiversity preservation, sustainable forestry, wise water management, and so on.
"There is a huge opportunity to focus on skills, training and on innovation and green technologies. This will drive the green job creation," he said.
He also said that during the pandemic, people needed to adopt a new approach to day-to-day project implementation very quickly.
He cited the example of Morocco developing an online water and waste management training platform with unlimited access to courses, video sessions and virtual quadratic simulations for trainers and trainees to avoid unnecessary disruptions to training. As a result, Morocco continued with most of its projects during the pandemic lockdowns and restrictions.
The shift to the green economy will also require a skilled workforce.Dejene Tezera, director of the Department of Agri-Business of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization
Luo Shengqiang, a professor from Shanghai University of Engineering Science, said China had accelerated its transition towards a green economy during past decades.
"One clear example is that just a few months ago, the Chinese government announced its ambitious commitment to achieve a carbon dioxide emission peak before 2030, and also to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060," he said. "We have already witnessed tightened regulations on carbon dioxide emissions, and also the launch of a national carbon market."
He said the effect of COVID-19 on green transition in the short run was negative as firms with poor financial status would reduce their investment in green technologies and consumers with less income would choose not to buy the green but expensive products. But in the long run, he said, the effects would be positive.
"The pandemic has reminded the whole of humanity of the importance of a green economy, and a lot of green industries emerged because they are less resource-dependent," he said. "They are more energy-efficient and environment-friendly. They also gain more support from the government, the public and consumers. And a lot of high resource-dependent companies or high-pollution companies are driven out of the industry."
James Gomme, director of the People & Society Department of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said the pandemic had raised public awareness in shocks brought by not only the COVID-19 waves, but also other disasters such as climate change and biodiversity loss. It also spurred increased business action to become more resilient and better prepared for the future.
"The other thing the pandemic has highlighted to the business community is the inter-connectivity of our global systems, and indeed of our natural systems, highlighting the fact that we cannot consider ourselves in isolation of each other as countries, sectors, as communities. And indeed, we can't consider ourselves in isolation from the natural world as well."
The pandemic had also demonstrated that "if private and public sectors come together to tackle these sorts of challenges, then solutions can be possible," he said. "More generally for individuals and companies and governments, the pandemic provided a critical reflection point, a chance for us to stop and think about how we want to rebuild better or build back better."
He also said businesses needed to embrace a transformative agenda to survive the impact of the pandemic.
We cannot consider ourselves in isolation of each other as countries, sectors, as communities. And indeed, we can't consider ourselves in isolation from the natural world as well.James Gomme, director of the People & Society Department of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development
Deb Geyer, vice president and corporate responsibility officer of US company Stanley Black & Decker, said her company saw the pandemic positively as an opportunity.
"When the pandemic hit, homes quickly became the epicenter of daily life," she said. "Employees who were in offices were now virtual, and we saw an incredible up tick.
"Our customers purchased our tools to help renovate. There are homes now to become offices and classrooms. So our sales growth certainly took off on what consumers needed in order to make their way through this pandemic."
She said the pandemic also helped the company to pivot its focus into health-care products, such as three-dimensional face shields, to help frontline health-care workers make it through. It also produced respirators and ventilators to keep people alive.