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Green skills can help turn rising bills into cost savings

IT HAS BEEN a long winter. Energy bills have risen and now is the time of the year when we’ll all be receiving our energy bills for the winter. That bill is likely to have increased by 10% since the last one, with the big six energy providers hiking their prices at the end of 2013. However, these rising costs could be turned into savings.

For example, a fifth of respondents to a recent IEMA survey who work for large companies said their company had achieved savings in the region of a million pounds per year through resource efficiencies. Even 44% of SMEs managed to save over £10,000 per year.

It might sound initially like a simple task to cut your energy bills, but to capitalise on savings takes specialist green skills. Substantial efficiencies, the kind that add up to many thousands of pounds, can only be achieved by someone who not only knows the laws and practices around environmental management, but who can also engage with the workforce; someone who can analyse consumption patterns and who can identify where supply risks can be transformed into opportunities for efficiency; and knows exactly the areas that need to be monitored and where the most effective energy reductions can be achieved. It’s a rare and valuable mix of skills.

It’s not just soaring energy costs that will increasingly impact on your business. The changing climate increasingly threatens property, assets and resource security. The continued supply of materials needed to produce everything from Marks & Spencer’s food to manufacturing BAE System’s ships has never been more uncertain. Nature is changing the type of the skills needed to protect the future of business. In fact, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UK CES) identified “growing scarcity of natural resources and degradation of ecosystems” as one of the thirteen most influential trends impacting the jobs and skills landscape in the UK up to 2030.

Essentially, employing people with green skills not only arms an organisation against these types of risks – there is a great deal of legislation and regulations around environmental management, not to mention the multiple standards – but they save and make money. I know a waste manager for an NHS Trust who saved over £300,000 in just 12 months. I also recently met an environment manager from a food processing firm who created a £250k revenue stream that no one else had identified, let alone achieved. That’s why organisations worldwide, from the very small to the multi-national, are waking up to the intrinsic value of green skills.

For the smart organisations that are employing those with green skills, they are recognising and benefitting from their ability to interrogate environmental data (from energy usage, waste output, greenhouse gas emissions) and use it to make necessary changes that result in cost savings. Skilled Environment & Sustainability professionals can take a whole-life perspective to assess their environmental impact and their potential for delivering savings by reducing packaging or securing payments from waste at the end of the products’ life. More experienced professionals have the leadership and communication skills to explain to staff and stakeholders how environmental principles are vital to the survival of the business. That combination is what makes them different, and it’s what makes them invaluable.

Businesses that are seriously capitalising on green skills such as – PepsiCo, Tata Steel, Rolls Royce, Wiles Greenworld and Stannah Stairlifts spring to mind – are employing them right across their operations, from compliance roles to chief sustainability officer positions. This ensures that every area of the environment is met, managed and built into the fabric of the organisation. They are seeing returns on investment in green skills, spending less on resources and energy costs and securing the future of their business through innovations.

Green skills aren’t limited to the experienced professionals. Cross-organisational training schemes like All Jobs Greener enable every business to weave green skills throughout the entire workforce, from the shop floor to the board room. While it’s the skilled professionals who can innovate to make savings, buy-in from every member of staff makes those savings even more achievable.

Green skills are for the 21st Century, a time where the future of business is more threatened by the changing climate than a faltering economy. Investing in green skills not only protects businesses from legal and environmental risk, but strengthens the organisation’s ability to innovate and accumulate savings. Finance directors, with your eye on the security of your entire business, have the ideal leadership opportunity to ensure that the right people with the right skills are in place to stimulate valuable savings.

Tim Balcon is CEO of the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA)

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