Green leaders are the future

As the World Economic Forum has said, not so cheerfully, ‘there are no jobs on a dead planet.’ But this statement alone fails to understand that the future isn’t actually written yet.

As part of First Executive Recruitment’s focus on market mapping, we know that the successful leaders being sought today, for tomorrow’s success, are those with an eye on environmental and climate issues. Particularly in engineering and manufacturing sectors (the sectors that sit in the front row of the stadium of climate change) it is imperative that their executive teams are skilled and dexterous in the light of green issues.

Working towards a zero carbon future – green engineering and manufacturing
Engineering and manufacturing businesses are on the frontline of change. Often vigorously insulted because of their contribution to climate change, they are also central to the solution.

All eyes are on these sectors to work towards a zero carbon future through innovation and immense change. This involves incorporating a green ethos into talent acquisition at the highest level.

The problem
Our World in Data presents some fascinating data about greenhouse gas emissions. Unsurprisingly, the data comes down hard on engineering and manufacturing.

Energy consumption is the biggest cause of global greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for 73.2% of total emissions. Dig into that data and we see industries sat firmly within engineering and manufacturing.

It takes vast amounts of energy to engineer and manufacture goods and if that energy comes from non-renewable sources, it’s simply not sustainable. Humans have increased atmospheric CO₂ concentration by 47% since the Industrial Revolution.

What does this mean? Well, it’s the doom and gloom behind climate change. So far, global sea level has risen by 178mm over the past 100 years. By 2100 that’s anticipated to rise 1-8 ft. By 2050, it’s believed the Arctic will be ice free. The effect is one where we’ll see more droughts at the same time as more floods, and all manner of other issues that you hear about in the news.

Engineering and manufacturing leaders are primed for change
Strategy for the future of engineering and manufacturing businesses is utterly dependent on navigating the challenges and opportunities that green issues present.

In practice, we need engineering and manufacturing leaders who understand the challenges and pressures facing their sector.

It’s worth it – greener industries are better respected and growing. For those in engineering and manufacturing, the ability to demonstrate sustainability and ethical practices boosts your reputation.

This is difficult to quantify due to issues with measurement, but it’s a stark fact. We can anticipate this will only grow as younger, greener generations take their place in society as both spenders and leaders. But our green leaders also need another tool in their toolkit: a deep level understanding of the green framework of regulation.

As individuals and politicians become increasingly aware of the importance of green credentials in manufactured products, laws will continue to bring in increasingly stringent eco-requirements.

We can expect that continued pressure will be placed on manufacturing to decrease their energy use, certainly from non-renewable sources. We can expect continued statutory pressure for manufacturing processes to be greener, responsible for lower carbon emissions.

It’s not just manufacturing. It is engineering businesses that need to change how things are made. Innovation needs to be sharply focused on zero-carbon solutions. This is only possible if the businesses in these industries are being led by informed, aware, and dedicated green leaders.

A seismic shift for engineering and manufacturing
We can’t underestimate what green issues mean for the engineering and manufacturing sectors. Those that simply move to areas of the globe where environmental regulation is more lax will not benefit in the long run.

Ultimately, the change will come across the board and it is the businesses which embrace the challenge and lead the way which will prove to be the ones that survive and thrive in the future.

However, the journey may be a bumpy ride. As the World Economic Forum says:

“Switching to a decarbonized economy will inevitably lead to structural unemployment – at a time when the global economy is weak.”

If engineering and manufacturing sectors are in the front row of the stadium of climate change, the workers themselves are the gladiators in the arena. Our future leaders will be needed to find and identify the future talent they need whilst also being the conduit to organisational and structural change.

However, green leaders also have opportunities here too. They have a central role in ‘greening jobs and skills’. With green leaders shaping the engineering and manufacturing businesses of the future, jobs can be created. Indeed, already, climate action in the form of renewable energy is creating jobs. In China, 3.4 million people are employed in the renewable energy sector. In Germany it’s 370,000.

Green leaders need to be used to driving eco-innovation in engineering and manufacturing. They need to understand the regulatory framework, but they need to go well beyond this to capture the opportunities that being ahead of climate issues offer.

In other words, leaders need to lead their businesses through green changes not because of the ‘stick’ of regulations and market forces by changing consumers, but because of the ‘carrot’ of reputational standing and financial longevity.

We’re not just saying this either. OECD modelling shows that “ambitious” climate-change mitigation is not only good for the environment – it’s good for the jobs market. GDP will continue to grow (albeit slightly more slowly).

Finding the green leaders we need
Leaders in engineering and manufacturing suffer from an image problem. On the one hand they are supposedly the pillars of innovation. On the other they are marred by the interpretation of them as dinosaurs: unwieldy and slow to change.

Identifying green leaders who can harness that concept of innovation in a way which demonstrates agility to flex to the green challenges of the future is of course a tall order. It relies on identifying talent that is already demonstrating this unique combination of engineering or manufacturing skill and knowledge with a visionary approach rooted in green innovation, alongside a firm understanding of market and regulatory pressure. This may involve moving talent sideways from one sector to another, or globally from one location to elsewhere.

It’s about market mapping at the next level! And for that you need an exceptional talent partner who has already shown their skilled-hand at identifying and recruiting green leaders in engineering and manufacturing.

I can help manufacturing and engineering businesses who are looking for green leaders for the future. Give me a call to discuss how I can help move your plans forward.

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