The move towards a Green Economy, targeting zero emissions by 2050, is fast changing the way people work and live across the UK. With a significant percentage of decarbonisation needed to be achieved by the end of this decade, the pace of transformation will be monumental for all and potentially bewildering to many. Leigh Hughes, CSR Director of Bouygues Construction in the UK and CCR Chair of the Regional Skills Partnership, is concerned that the scale of change may confuse people and mean that we miss the opportunities ahead, for skills and life in general.
In this thought-provoking article, Leigh shares his evidence-based personal views on what green really means…
Whichever hat I’m wearing, as Chair of the CCR Regional Skills Partnership or as CSR Director of Bouygues Construction in the UK, it’s fair to say that the last few years have brought both opportunities and plenty of challenges – and the view ahead is certainly not without unknowns nor shades of grey. Some people are calling the untimely combination of Brexit, Pandemic, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Climate Change a ‘perfect storm’ – or worse – and there’s certainly no room for complacency. But are we really facing a universal disruption of all that has gone before? Or have we arrived at an admittedly ‘uncertain’ moment of opportunity where cool-headed thinking can unlock seemingly insurmountable problems and unleash the power of human capital like never before?
Being more climate-friendly is a mindset of being more collaborative and more creative in what we do
The most meaningful change ahead is being driven by Climate Change – and rightly so. It’s something that focuses all our minds and all our activities, at both Bouygues Construction and Cardiff Capital Region. ‘Green Skills’, ‘Green Jobs’, ‘Green Finance’ and ‘The Green Economy’ are just some of the ‘green words’ that occupy our everyday vocabulary. But what does this ‘Green’ really mean in terms of the skills we need for today and tomorrow? Nobody actually knows – so In my view, being more climate friendly simply means being more innovative and more collaborative. It’s not necessarily about something that’s radically ‘new’. It’s about looking at things in a different way. In other words, it’s a mindset – a mindset that kickstarts fresh thinking – putting Wales at a potentially favourable advantage, as we have a strong tradition of innovation in academia, in our start-ups and in the global success stories that we’ve both built and attracted to our region.
Challenges are opportunities – and we enjoy a potential advantage right now, given our strong tradition of innovation
So being green may simply mean being smarter – adapting the skills we possess and re-using the resources we have, in different ways. And that brings tremendous opportunities. Our companies have shown how they can pivot their operations in a matter of days during a pandemic. That’s innovative. I recently spoke with the COO of a large company which mobilised 22,000 people globally, to work in a completely different way. That’s inspirational. We need to inspire ourselves to grab this moment and think through how we can adapt and flex what we already have, to grab the undoubted opportunities in front of us . As an example, I believe we already have many of the skills for ‘Green’, we just need to shape them for a new purpose. It could mean adding fresh learning to certain technical apprenticeships, or even just opening the eyes and minds of people looking to reskill or upskill, letting them know they already have the core competencies for a so-called green job in the green economy.
“We have all the ingredients here to make this quick evolution in the way we think and do. We have five generations in the workplace, giving us the opportunity to pool knowledge, energy and a diversity of experiences – creating a far-sighted growth mindset in the workplace, continually encouraging everyone to be more inventive and imaginative. The pandemic has given leaders the opportunity to be open and transparent, to say they don’t have all the answers – giving organisations ‘permission’ to harness the thoughts and actions of everyone, catalysing the workforce to become more adaptable, flexible and agile in their skillsets.
We have all the tools in the toolbox – now we need to look at the possibilities rather than talking about the barriers
There’s more than enough ‘green finance’ to support this change – to bring together our fine academic minds, our experts in industries such as Compound Semiconductors and the added momentum of global businesses looking to invest in the human capital we possess here in Wales. We have all the tools in the toolbox. Now we need to look at the opportunities and stop concentrating on the barriers. We need to ban the overly negative questions that can plague us here in Wales and keep asking ‘how can we do this?’ I’ve seen at first hand how that spirit of can-do can work near miracles in our digital economy, where a small company starts out with an idea, tests the concept, learns by iteration and, before you know it, is leading the field, doing something that no one has done before. That initial idea is nearly always grounded in skills and experience that we already have – and we can emulate that across all our industries.
It’s all about ‘Us’. So let’s do it.
I’ve no doubt that we have the latent skills to transform with the new economy – and I believe the lessons of the pandemic have given us a new type of leadership, too. We have the tradition of innovation, the finance that will back us, the world-class partnerships with academia – and the international collaborations who will help us. So it really is all about ‘Us’. Let’s do it.