Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Employers have a central role to play in accelerating Scotland’s journey to net zero, says the CIPD

Focus on skills development, organisational culture and social and community impacts will be key in the transition to a green economy.

Employers have a central role to play in rapidly accelerating Scotland’s journey to net zero, which will become a defining trend in the next three decades, according to the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development. 

The CIPD’s latest report, Putting people professionals on the road to net zero, highlights how employers and Scottish Government can support the transition to a green economy in three key ways: 

Unlocking Scotland’s skills potential:

The case study-led report suggests that to harness net zero opportunities, new labour market entrants need to be supplemented by workers transitioning across industries, with different levels of skill transferability. 

The green economy requires an increase in upskilling and reskilling in Scotland, coupled with a focus on work-based learning. As it stands, current efforts in this space are insufficient to meet demand, and the Scottish Government needs to urgently boost lifelong learning pathways. 

Supporting a just transition:

Both Government and employers should ensure that the important and inevitable change needed in Scotland’s industrial landscape doesn’t lead to raised unemployment. Instead, they should focus on the redeployment and development of skills and skilled workers. 

A focus on fair work is needed to ensure workers with the appropriate skills are in the right industry at the right time. 

Looking at their own operations through a people lens:

Any organisation seeking to meet its sustainability goals will depend on its people to embrace this agenda. Cultural change is contingent on workforce buy-in, clear values and supporting people with the right tech and training to do their jobs. There are also practical steps that people professionals in particular can drive, including: 

  • Flexible working: reducing work commutes and business travel by embracing flexible working, depending on the sector.  
  • Waste reduction: turning business premises into zero waste workplaces. 
  • Reward schemes: adjusting reward packages and employee benefits so they contribute to sustainability goals. 

Marek Zemanik, Senior Public Policy Adviser at the CIPD in Scotland, comments:

“Scotland, and the UK as a whole, needs to urgently accelerate the transition to a net zero economy. The foundations are there, but building our net zero future needs to be a joint endeavour, and time is running out to get it right. As our report shows, employers, along with Government, will play a crucial role in delivering a just transition. 

“The scale of this challenge should not be underestimated, but there are also significant opportunities. It’s vital that the social and community elements are not ignored. Redeployment and reskilling people should be prioritised over redundancies, with employers and Government stepping in to bridge the decline in some industries, with the emergence of others. This is a chance to ensure that the inevitable change in our industrial landscape doesn’t lead to raised unemployment and instead has a transformational and positive impact on communities.”  

The report draws on the offshore energy industry as a case study to provide recommendations for people professionals in their journey to net zero, including: 

  • Understanding what the medium and long-term impacts of the net zero transition will be on their people. 
  • Using intensive, open and honest communication to build trust amid organisational change.  
  • Focusing on continuous career development of employees, especially if their role is impacted.