Unlocking Sustainable Growth: New report by The Open University Reveals ESG Discussions in Boardrooms Hindered by Skills Gap

A significant disconnect between Scottish businesses’ ESG (environmental, social and governance) ambitions and action has been revealed in a new report by The Open University

Exploring business leaders’ attitudes and knowledge of ESG, the report revealed that while nearly four in five (77%) businesses agree that ESG factors impact their organisation’s brand or reputation, less than a tenth (8%) have a fully realised ESG strategy.

Surveying over 500 businesses across Scotland and the rest of the UK, the report also identified key barriers to implementing ESG, including lack of financial resources (28%), missing essential skills (24%) and complexity (23%). While inflation and rising business costs are putting further pressure on learning and development budgets, business leaders are struggling to put training in place to quip employees with the skills required to meet ESG.

Among those who experience skills gaps, the top five skills gaps are in:

  • Waste reduction (27%)
  • Data analysis (25%)
  • Energy tracking / usage (24%)
  • Training and development (24%)
  • Carbon accounting (23%)

In light of these challenges, the report aims to aid businesses on their ESG journeys, offering insights and advice from ESG experts on how they can bridge existing skills gap and encouraging business leaders to educate themselves and staff, introduce measurement of goals and more effectively use their voice to drive change.  

Dr Victoria Hands, Director of Sustainability at The Open University, commented:

“Businesses now understand more than ever, that ESG performance is critical not only for the reputation of a modern organisation, but also for success and profitability. These topics are now central to driving future success and investment to transform our society.

“This report reveals that ESG conversations are happening frequently in all sizes of businesses, which is really encouraging. Whilst conversations are taking place, it’s crucial that strategies are put in place to help employers develop ESG-related skills and ultimately work towards future-proofing businesses, their workforces and the communities they serve.

“In upskilling for ESG, we have the opportunity to ensure that such a transition is equitable and inclusive of the diversity of people in our society. To help work towards sustainable goals, employers should explore developing long-term strategies through education, data measurement and the confidence to use a business’s platform to speak up.” 

Jane Grant, Depute Director External Engagement and Partnerships at The Open University in Scotland, added

“The report reveals that the lack of skills is the second biggest blocker for adapting ESG, but the right employee training can be a solution to this gap. 

“It’s important that employers are aware of their options and invest in appropriate training programmes through partnering with an organisation such as the OU, to help them keep on track with achieving ESG objectives. We have successfully supported a large number of businesses – who can choose from different approaches including microcredentials, continuing professional development courses, degree apprenticeships, undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications, free learning from our OpenLearn platform, or newly created tailored opportunities.” 

To find out more and download the report ‘Educate, Measure, Speak up: How businesses can get ahead with ESG’ visit: https://www5.open.ac.uk/business/esg

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