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Stakeholder Capitalism

The Planet Is Suffering: 82% of Global Workers Ready to Help, So What’s Stopping Them?

Companies racing to achieve net zero commitments are hitting a roadblock — a lack of qualified applicants for the very jobs that will help them meet their sustainability goals. A global survey conducted by Salesforce, however, reveals a global workforce hungry to get involved in corporate sustainability. This article details these findings and offers insights for how employers can skill up existing workers to close the sustainability talent gap.


With the climate crisis reaching a fevered pitch over the summer, all eyes are on the planet’s stakeholders — governments, nonprofits, and companies — to act.

Organizations, to their credit, are setting ambitious climate goals. Despite both good intentions and pressure to meet these goals from their own employees, boards, and regulatory agencies, businesses are facing a severe shortage of sustainability talent available to help meet their increasingly large commitments.

Climate change is the single greatest threat to humanity’s future, and it will take an army of qualified individuals — from carbon accountants to scientists to ecopreneurs — working together to reach a net zero future. But without the qualified talent to fill the roles, an already daunting task is nearly impossible.

So, what can be done? 

The answer may lie in a surprising place — a company’s existing workforce. According to new Salesforce research on the Sustainability Talent Gap, over 8 in 10 global workers want to help their company operate sustainably, with 3 in 5 eager to incorporate sustainability into their current role.

With an emerging workforce waiting to help, businesses must turn their attention to training. By upskilling existing workers who want to make the jump into sustainability careers, companies can source talent for hard-to-fill roles, while helping employees work on something they’re passionate about.

Companies that invest in sustainability training and user-friendly reporting might see skepticism decline

Upskilling may help solve another problem companies face in the race to net zero. 

Research reveals that employees around the world doubt their own companies reaching their sustainability goals in time. They have even less faith when looking at their confidence in most companies.

With businesses and talent so outwardly focused on sustainability impact, why are employees still concerned? Respondents had a few thoughts on what could be obstructing companies from reaching their sustainability goals, most notably, an inability to find skilled talent and little investment in sustainability training for existing employees.

Upskilling, then, can solve both the concern for finding talent, and showcase sustainability training that moves the needle of skepticism.

The global workforce, however, also finds the current sustainability reporting landscape too complex to showcase tangible progress toward company goals. In fact, over 9 in 10 global employees claim sustainability reporting that’s easier to understand would help build trust in companies’ commitments. 

“Language in the sustainability field is very technical — there is a language gap. People understand personal sustainability but not corporate sustainability,” said one sustainability leader, when interviewed about the findings.

Awareness and education play a key role in successful corporate sustainability commitments

Looking further into the data, a clear knowledge gap is uncovered. Over half of surveyed workers are not aware if their company operates with net zero emissions, despite 70% saying it is critical that their company does so – making it clear there is a need not just for skilling, but for ensuring overall education for employees around company sustainability commitments and climate goals. In fact, over one-fourth of the 1,297 workers surveyed around the world have never even heard of a Carbon Accountant. 

To ensure a promising future, sustainability leaders say: “all roles should be sustainability roles.” In fact, according to this latest research, 64% of global knowledge workers actually believe their role relates to sustainability in some way. But, as seen earlier, nearly 7 in 10 wish they had more sustainability-related qualifications.

“What we need is an army of subject matter experts,” said one sustainability leader. The time is now to build that army of talent, as half of the surveyed workforce claim they would leave their company if they discovered it was not following through with its sustainability commitments. 

How Salesforce is empowering its workforce to meet the climate emergency

Companies have a responsibility to empower their talent with sustainability education, and Salesforce is one company working toward that goal. 

Salesforce’s Trailhead platform saw a nearly 60% growth rate in its users upskilling on sustainability from 2021 to the first half of 2022. This came from businesses not only investing in technology like Net Zero Cloud, but actively getting their employees skilled up on the platform.

Within the company, employees are looking to upskill in the fight against climate change. With Salesforce’s support, some have even transitioned to making it their full-time job.

Everyone at Salesforce, whether you’re in Finance or any other part of the company, everyone needs to be a Chief Sustainability Officer.

Joe Allanson, EVP Finance ESG at Salesforce

On a global scale, Salesforce unlocks the ability of employees, ecosystems, and society to take climate action. Earthforce, a group of Salesforce employee volunteers who are passionate about protecting the environment, has chapters in more than 40 offices, 90+ team leaders, and 7,000+ champions who have volunteered thousands of hours of their time to support climate action.

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As sustainability continues to stay at the forefront of stakeholders’ minds, business leaders must reevaluate how to create sustainability roles, hire and retain sustainability talent, and provide the right tools and training for sustainability-focused employees to help them reach their targets.

Learn more

  • Read how three Salesforce employees changed careers within the company to fight climate change.

Methodology

Salesforce conducted a double-blind survey among 1,297 Global Knowledge Workers* across 11 countries (Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Singapore, UK and US) in August 2022.


*Members of the workforce/workers/employees in this case are knowledge workers. Knowledge workers are defined as employed full-time (30 or more hours per week) and either having one of the roles listed below: Executive Management (e.g., President/Partner, CEO, CFO, C-suite), Senior Management (e.g., Executive VP, Senior VP), Middle Management (e.g., Department/Group Manager, VP), Junior Management (e.g., Manager, Team Leader), Senior Staff (i.e., Non-Management), Skilled Office Worker (e.g., Analyst, Graphic Designer).

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