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Ask a young person what their vision for a green future is and no doubt they will talk about wind turbines, recycling and public transport. Then ask a young person what they envisage their role to be in that future, and unless they’re aspiring renewable technology engineers or waste managers, they will most likely draw a blank.
And this is where things need to change. If we are to reduce our carbon emission enough to avoid catastrophic climate change, and if we are to achieve energy security and affordability, and if we are to use our natural resources more sustainably, our whole economy needs to be green. It will be the 21st century’s version of the Industrial Revolution, but this time we have even more at stake.
Young people can’t feign ignorance at such messages, as they’ve been shouted about for long enough. My generation are certainly environmentally aware, and more often than not, are at least concerned about the issues, but so far we have failed to instil environmental ambition in them.
“In the future, every job will be a green job, contributing to varying degrees to continuous improvement of resource efficiency” – European Union, 2010
Sustainability is playing an increasingly important part in all business sectors, and is becoming the new business as usual. Sixty per cent of companies increased their sustainability spending in 2010, despite the downturn (Sustainability: The ‘Embracers’ Seize Advantage). The global low carbon market was worth more than £3.2 trillion in 2009/10 and is projected to reach £4 trillion by 2015 (Enabling the Transition to a Green Economy).
However, businesses are currently being held back by a shortage of workers with the necessary skills and knowledge to further their low carbon ambitions. In the Leadership Skills for a Sustainable Economy report, 70% of respondents agreed that the gap in sustainability skills will become one of the most pressing challenges facing UK businesses in the next five years.
Future business leaders, lawyers, engineers, bankers, accountants, advertisers and every other graduate needs to be informed, inspired and prepared for the Green Revolution. The University of Exeter Business School have recently launched the One Planet MBA, in partnership with WWF, and are training ‘planet-minded business leaders’. It would be a mistake to think such courses are solely for the green-hearted hippies. They are simply the smart ones, who are putting themselves ahead of the competition and discovering a professionally and personally rewarding future.