A man holding a tablet in a laboratory setting leans down to look at green leaves

The future of jobs is green: How climate change is changing labour markets

This article was originally published on the World Economic Forum’s Agenda blog.

  • LinkedIn data shows hiring for green jobs consistently outpaces overall hiring.

  • Fossil fuel-heavy industries are being transformed by the growth of green skills – up by 40% since 2015, but more can be done.

  • Companies face pressure to accelerate their green transition as just over 1 in 4 adults say sustainability is one of their top non-negotiables for a new job.

  • Everyone has a role to play in tackling climate change – from learning new green skills to making business strategies more sustainable.

The future of work and the future of jobs continue to generate a huge amount of discussion. From the pandemic upending how, where and why we work, to the rise of automation and generative AI, people have rightly dived into conversations on everything from “quiet quitting”, “rage applying” to “the great reshuffle”.

But while these topics have caught the cultural zeitgeist, there’s an area relating to jobs that’s not talked about enough: the climate. We have no choice but to fundamentally change how we work if we’re going to save the planet and our way of life.

Countries around the world have set ambitious targets to reach net-zero by 2050 – requiring a seismic shift across global economies and industries to change the way we do things. Both governments and businesses are looking hard at how to drive this green transition further and faster. Governments are setting the national direction and organisations are reinventing their business models in order to play their part. The good news is that we are seeing this progress reflected in hiring for green jobs.

New LinkedIn data in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report shows that hiring for green roles consistently outpaced the overall hiring rate globally four years in a row. For many job seekers, green jobs are a safe bet in a cooling labour market, with roles like sustainability analysts, sustainability specialists and sustainability managers featuring in LinkedIn’s lists of the fastest growing roles – Jobs on the Rise – globally over the last four years.

But make no mistake – the green job revolution is much broader than hiring sustainability managers. Be it engineers who can build and run wind farms or managers who can help make the day-to-day running of a business more sustainable, we need to see a rapid scale up in roles that require green skills if we want real change.

Supply of green skills isn’t keeping up with demand for green talent

While global demand for green skills has risen by 40% since 2015, only 13% of the labour workforce actually possess the skills that are needed and wanted by organizations. It’s clear that collectively we aren’t moving fast enough to upskill professionals with the skills we need to meet our net-zero targets.

The vast majority of green skills are being used in jobs that aren’t traditionally thought of as green, such as fleet managers, data scientists or health workers. The green skills revolution has the potential to transform our working lives in the same way the rise of the internet and digital connectivity did, but we’re not recognising the scale of change required.

Green skills rise to the top in polluting industries

LinkedIn’s data shows that green skills are already helping transform fossil fuel-heavy sectors in high-emission countries. Counterintuitively, the manufacturing, and oil and gas sectors, have the highest levels of “green skill intensity” – an indicator of how much a job uses green skills – and this trend is consistent across all 50 countries analysed.

While India, the US and Germany are some of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, these countries are also seeing some of the fastest growth in green skills in carbon intensive industries. Germany is adopting more green skills in its manufacturing industry than the global average, while India and the US are leading the way in the oil and gas, and mining sectors, with workers reporting higher green skills compared to those sectors in other countries.

This is a positive shift. It’s in these industries that the most significant change needs to take place to reduce emissions and hit our climate targets. But we mustn’t become complacent. Our reliance on fossil fuels needs to drastically decrease and more sectors and countries need to up their game by greening their businesses and upskilling their employees.

Sustainability is non-negotiable

As businesses face a green reckoning in the global effort to reach net-zero, job seekers are also demanding more from employers when it comes to sustainability. From the COVID-19 pandemic to the continued economic uncertainty, we’ve seen people around the world considering not just how they work, but also why they work.

Just over 1 in 4 (26%) adults surveyed in Europe told us that sustainability is one of their top non-negotiables when evaluating a company's culture and values. There is now a strong and growing desire from professionals to work for a company that values the environment, and where they can have a positive impact on climate change. This means companies that help upskill their workforces faster and adapt their businesses to be greener will have a competitive edge when hiring the best talent. And investing in green skills offers professionals an opportunity to future-proof their career and find new roles in a more challenging economic climate.

Boosting green skills

So how can companies and professionals manage this green labour market transition? It comes down to one thing: we need more workers with green skills and we need them now. Here are three things governments, businesses and professionals can do to help us get there.

Policy-makers must commit to green skills, be their champion and prepare the workforce. Business leaders must invest in upskilling current and future green talent. The global workforce has to build green skills to power change and compete for the best jobs.

To help meet this challenge, we’ve made available free LinkedIn learning courses to help professionals learn how to be more sustainable at work and at home, as well as how companies can embrace sustainability as an opportunity to innovate their businesses. LinkedIn’s Sustainability Resource Hub also offers knowledge and tips to guide companies and job seekers on their sustainability journey.

We are at a crucial turning point in our efforts to save the planet. But to do this we need the right people in the right places. As questions and debate about the state of the labour market and the future of jobs rightly continue, we have to put climate change at the centre of those discussions.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023 can be viewed here.