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Discussion topic: ‘Sustainability, the need for new talents and skills’
Location: Institute of Directors (IoD), Pall Mall on 24th September 14:00 – 18:00

The Premise: Business is looking to embrace more sustainable practices and make the best use of talents and skills of sustainability practitioners. However, in a time of economic austerity, what skills are now required by practitioners?

The Event:

Alpine Executive collaborated with the Association of Sustainability Practitioners (ASP) to discuss these matters in the hope that a dialogue between practitioners, business managers and HR professionals might through up some insights and perhaps some new ideas for action.

The discussion was held at the IoD where a diverse range of eminent speakers put their own perspective. They were:

* Simon Henzell-Thomas – Sustainable Development Director, The Body Shop
* Dinah McLeod – Head of Sustainability Global Services, BT
* Marianne Mwaniki- Organisational Development, Standard Chartered Bank
* Simon Sheppard – Natural England, Director, Organisation Development


The event was well attended and a lively debate produced some real ‘light bulb’ moments for many. A summary of the outcomes over the two discussion sessions were as follows:

Session 1:

What skills and talents will the Sustainability Practitioner of the future require?

Characteristics they will display

* Inspiring
* “Underpants on the Outside” – superhero tendencies!
* Able to live outside their comfort zone
* Courageous
* Collaborative
* Curious
* Coaches not cops
* Bias towards ‘softer skills’
* Influencer

Things that they will have to be able to do

* Be an agent for change
* Take on holistic view of the company’s role in the community
* Create Awareness
* Honing the culture
* Create space for others to take initiative
* Look beyond the low hanging fruit
* Take global perspective
* Talk at many different levels
* Ability to access the team knowledge
* Don’t forget that they are first and foremost ‘people’
* Understand group dynamics and individual motivations

Session 2:

How will organisations have to change to make the most of these skills & talents?

What characteristics will they need to develop?

* Sustainable Adaptation – systemic and long term thinking
* Leadership from the top
* Clear corporate values matching recruits values
* Be seen and/ or be known to be doing something in respect to sustainability to gain recruitment and retention benefits
* Care and gratitude
* Set good examples that the masses follow
* Engage all generations
* Good leaders understand their people and their motivations
* Think about the aim behind the legislation

What will they need to do differently?

* Be more collaborative
* Recognising an opportunity to build in sustainability issues into new service offerings.
* Spread the sustainable accountability to all staff – part of the job description
* Develop new values
* Recreate that psychological contract (Employer-Employee)
* Increase ‘Trust’
* Change performance metrics – more balanced scorecards measured by stakeholders
* Respond to changing demands from clients (today’s services will not work tomorrow)
* People moving to more sustainable communities
* Encouraging the ‘whole person’ to come to work


The event stimulated a great deal of interest, according to the ASP certainly one of their best. We will be following up with another similar event in the New Year. This event will be held in the South West on this occasion. Watch this space for more news.


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