How does sustainability impact jobs, skills and careers?
Organisations are increasingly committing to sustainability policies to achieve their business goals, build the public’s trust, and attract purpose-minded employees.
Sustainable business strategies focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, commonly addressing environmental responsibility, human rights, fair working conditions, and diversity and inclusion. In this context, our July roundtable explored the implications of sustainability strategies through the lens of jobs, skills and careers.
We invited Cath Jowers, Group Head of Talent and Leadership Development at Anglo American to be our provocateur as sustainability is a business priority for Anglo American. Cath highlighted the enterprise-wide significance of their approach, the opportunities and challenges that sustainability has created for the People Function and how their response is keeping them ahead of the curve.
David North introduced the session by reflecting on how sustainability has emerged as perhaps the key driver of business and people strategies within the developed world. It’s unusual as it is a priority that’s shared by governments, investors, customers, employees and local communities. He suggested that there’s a competitive advantage, particularly in the employment market, for companies who focus on sustainability and successfully transform their working practices.
Participants highlighted the ways in which their sustainability strategy is informing their people strategy:
- Harmonising our sustainability approach after a recent merger
- Upskilling all our employees to broaden their understanding of the subject
- Making a strong connection between our sustainability objectives and company mission and values
- Applying sustainability commitments to strategic workforce planning
- Exploring effective ways to measure our progress
- Designing talent programmes so our people work in the local community with start-up businesses
- Co-ordinating our efforts with the Diversity and Inclusion team…’we need to be green and inclusive’
- Training leaders to make sustainable business decisions
- Crafting our sustainable business message to prospective employees
‘All of our consultants should have a plan to develop themselves in this area’
Cath began her presentation by explaining that Anglo American is a 100 year old mining company. Extracting natural resources from the earth in a sustainable way presents an existential question for the business. They’ve tackled this head on by making their sustainability plan central to the company’s purpose – ‘Re-imagining mining to improve people’s lives’.
To live this purpose and become a partner of choice requires the business to operate in a way that benefits all stakeholders. This is a formidable challenge as the understanding of sustainability develops, technology evolves, and stakeholder expectations change. Innovation is therefore a foundational element of their ‘Sustainable Mining Plan’.
Cath then described some of the people implications of a key element of this plan – ‘Taking people out of harm’s way’. This raises several challenges:
- Delivering the local job plan as job requirements change
- Growing internal talent as well as hiring from outside
- Balancing new job creation on and off-site
- Ensuring third-party contractors comply with people’s human rights
‘Everyone is thinking about how they can contribute to achieving our goals’.
Finally, Cath highlighted four key areas of focus for the HR function team as their Sustainability Strategy increasingly informs their People Strategy
Strategic Workforce Planning: To help answer the question ‘What capabilities will we need in the future and where will we need them? Anglo American use a system that generates plans for different global scenarios. To illustrate the way skill requirements are changing, Cath provided this example…
‘The people who ‘drive’ our mining trucks from thousands of miles away require the skills of an air traffic controller’
Leadership Development: Game Changers is one of their Leadership Academy programmes. It develops the knowledge, skill and determination that leaders require by immersing them in a range of sustainability challenges. The faculty come from the Sustainability, not Business, Schools of two international universities and the programme is also open to NGO partners.
Circular Economy Incubator: CircuLab is Anglo American’s internal Circular Economy Incubator. It helps initiate and scale opportunities they’ve identified. CircuLab invites all connected employees to bring forward circular economy ideas. Any employee can get involved and a panel assesses the best ideas. An example of a recent idea is the development of a process whereby mining waste can be transformed into soil that local communities could use to grow food.
‘A small idea that’s scalable is potentially very significant’.
Employee Value Proposition and Brand: Their EVP – ‘Always with purpose’ – is reinforced by including sustainability into the ‘moments that matter’ stories they share. Their ambition and growing reputation in this field enables them to attract candidate from a a wide range of non-traditional mining backgrounds;
Participants shared their reactions to the provocation and their own experience:
- It’s important to include all employees in your thinking about the opportunities created by a sustainability strategy. Employees can change career direction at any stage, and apprenticeships are one vehicle mid-career employees are using to navigate this shift
- Sustainability projects engage people because they offer the opportunity to learn and broaden understanding of the company’s activities. Employees are inspired by having a say in making decisions about the future of the business
- Involvement in sustainability programmes helps people to build networks across the organisation
- Sustainability initiatives are a great vehicle for upskilling and help people to identify their transferable skills
- Developing a sustainability competency framework and taxonomy is a priority
‘We have to be creative in our business, the sustainability driver is not so obvious for us’.
As people reflected on the session it was clear that sustainability offers a great opportunity for collaboration and synergies within organisations. Those making quicker progress are able to connect sustainability to the purpose of their business, whether it be where to invest, making good personal choices about money, managing property, or contributing to society.
‘It really helps to have sustainability embedded within our company purpose’.
Participants shared the ideas they were taking away from the discussion:
- A new skillset is required to become a sustainable business, and upskilling needs to be a priority
- Weave sustainability into all business-wide initiatives
- Help people access new sustainability roles by highlighting the value of transferable skills and the conduit of an opportunity marketplace
- Sustainability projects provide an ideal opportunity to learn from partners outside the organisation
- The EVP is a great way to connect all of these themes
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