Climate Change: A growing challenge for the Public Sector

Finding Talent in an Increasingly Competitive and Talent Short Market

Climate change is a real issue which requires real solutions. This is especially true for the public sector, particularly local authorities, who are faced with real climate-related impacts on communities and the environment.

“The debate is over: climate change is a reality. With a fast-closing window of opportunity, a rapid response is essential,” stated Phil Woolas MP in 2007, ex Minister for the Environment at Defra.

Considering this heightened awareness, it is no surprise that, to date, The Local Government Association has reported that 230 councils in the UK have declared a climate emergency.

But what does this mean for the public sector?

There is still too little known about climate change mitigation.

The PSSA (Public Sector Sustainability Association) reports “Earth is now the warmest it has been in more than 120,000 years, with 19 of the 20 warmest years on record all occurring since 2001.”

When looking at this from a public sector point of view, two issues must be addressed: 1) Adaptation – taking measures to ensure that services can be delivered efficiently in the face of the effects of climate change; and 2) Mitigation – reducing the extent to which services contribute towards climate change, largely through reducing carbon emissions.

The Government is equipping the public sector with a number of tools such as UKCIP, guides for local councils, and a myriad of other documents and advice. Although we have known about the impact of human activities on the environment for over 20 years, only recently has climate change become an “active” concern, and therefore a relatively new order of business for the public sector. In turn, this means there is a need for specialist professionals able to support the public sector with both climate adaptation and mitigation.

This need is growing. With a limited number of experienced professionals equipped to assist, finding them is becoming a concern.

“Fishing in the same pond.”

The private sector has so far played a key role in looking at how organisations address climate change, with an increasing number of corporations, SMEs and start-ups directly responding with real action. Decision makers within all groups have invariably incorporated climate change action in the form of carbon offsets, climate action agendas, CSR and more. This, from a talent acquisition perspective, means that climate change specialists have been hired and developed to support such radical business model changes. Even within the private sector, experts are still difficult to find, thus aggressively sought after. With the public sector now entering the race, this talent shortage is only going to be exacerbated further.

It is true that the subject of climate change is now becoming increasingly taught as a topic in schools, colleges, and universities. New undergraduate degrees focused on climate change have been introduced, and an increasing number of students are enrolling in such courses.

However, the clock is ticking, and there is no time to wait for a new expert generation. While the public sector is joining the race, advertising for climate change experts on the same platforms used by the private sector, everyone finds themselves “fishing in the same pond.” Therefore, the question is: what is going to influence talent to join one side or the other? Of course, salary, tempting packages and career rewards play a key role; but, as we enter a value-driven “new age”, this is not all those experts are interested in. The value of making a change is becoming a (if not the)deciding factor when considering a new role. Even with talent in place, how ready are public sector organisations to adapt?

Finding and Onboarding Talent. An easy task?

To tackle this skill shortage issue, it is important to have a robust talent attraction strategy to ensure you can hire the right people at the right time. This can be done with the support of skilled recruitment partners who have a finger on the market pulse, and a pre-existing, established network.

Climate17 have specialised in Climate Action and Sustainability recruitment for many years, and have a track record of successful partnerships with a number of public sector organisations, including the City of London. While we recognise talent searching can be difficult in such competitive markets, we take advantage of our experience, and utilise industry intelligence and networks to successfully approach the right people and engage them in the right way, to give us the best chance of success.

We are Clean Energy and Environmental recruitment veterans, and our Directors have been recruiting within climate change and sustainability since 2007. Helping organisations that really want to make a difference is what drives us at Climate17. We thrive on opportunities where our specialists can assist the public sector in filling skills gaps, turning a challenging brief in a successful hire, and supporting the global fight against climate change.