Sustainability Jobs and Skills are Rising in Europe

Published on Oct 31, 2023

Written by Mariana Marques

Aiming to reach net-zero and become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, the European Commission has been actively launching sustainability initiatives such as the Fit for 55 - which makes reducing gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 a legal requirement. But the Fit for 55 is just the tip of the iceberg. 

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) came into force in January this year, and it makes it compulsory for companies to report on their sustainability performance, including the impact of their activities on social and environmental matters, and the risks and opportunities arising from this analysis. 

With this in mind, European companies have to adapt their hiring practices to make sure they strengthen their sustainability efforts. But what role should sustainability really play when advertising for new positions and requesting specific skills? 

Lightcast has recently collaborated with Altis, Università Cattolica to produce a report for Sustainability Makers - an Italian network of over 300 professionals and businesses dedicated to planning and implementing sustainability practices, which covers the latest sustainability trends in occupations and skills in five European countries: Italy, France, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom. This article dives into some of its key findings. 

Who’s leading the sustainability race? 

In Germany, 3842 job postings were sustainability-related in 2022. This is the highest number of the European countries we studied. France takes second place with 2489 sustainability job postings, while Spain is significantly lower at 427. Italy’s numbers were also significantly lower than most of the countries studied. With 774 sustainability job postings, Italy has 3.2 times less postings than France, and 2.7 times less than the UK. 

But this isn’t just a numbers game. Various factors come into play when analysing the rise of sustainability job postings, including each country’s economic conditions, governmental policies, and other industry priorities. 

Plus, these numbers are not relative to the number of all job postings in each country. When looking at the share of sustainability postings in the total number of postings across countries, the picture is quite different. Spain has the highest concentration of sustainability postings, which account for 0.176% of all Spanish job postings, and Italy is right behind with a 0.175% share. The country with the lowest concentration out of the five European countries studied is actually the UK - with a share of 0.092%. But has it always been like this?

Sustainability: an upward and ever-growing trend

The introduction of sustainability in the way companies hire and advertise for roles is a fairly new phenomenon, bolstered by the increasing number of climate, social and financial policies and initiatives in the EU. Generally, European countries are experiencing a notable growth in sustainability job postings over the last four years. Germany had the highest number of sustainability postings in 2019, and continued in the lead until 2022. 

However, the country showing the biggest growth was actually Italy - with an astounding 22 times more sustainability postings in 2022 than in 2019. France wasn’t far behind, showing 12 times more sustainability postings in 2022 than in 2019, while the UK showed an eightfold increase. Spain had the least growth - but the upward trend is present across all countries, which reiterates the increasingly important role that sustainability is playing in corporate settings. 

What skills are needed in sustainability roles?

So sustainability is increasingly present in job postings. But what exact skills are employers looking for? And what other common and specialised skills are being requested to complement new responsibilities? Some of the most popular common skills for sustainability roles across all five European countries include proficiency in the English language, communication, and management skills. 

When it comes to specialised skills, some that jump out include finance, marketing, and auditing. But there are notable differences between countries, too. For instance, in Italy, 15.9% of sustainability job postings request benchmarking skills - making it the most in-demand specialised skill for sustainability roles in this country. Other interesting top specialised skills include Due Diligence, present in 6.8% of Spain’s sustainability postings, and Know Your Customer, which appears in 5.2% of Germany’s postings. Such skills show a growing interest in regulatory compliance within the sustainability realm. 

What about sustainability skills, specifically? Perhaps predictably - general “sustainability” skills are the most required in sustainability postings in Germany and Italy (present in 60.5% and 51.3% of the postings, respectively). The usage of more generic terms could suggest that - though “sustainability” is increasingly present in job postings - companies may not fully understand the skills needed behind the sustainability requirements put forward by the EU. 

While in Italy, the most sought after sustainability skills tend to be broader, including keywords such as ESG and urban sustainability, countries like the UK, France and Spain tend to be more specific. For instance, in the UK, some of the top sustainability skills include sustainability reporting (present in 7.6% of the postings) and sustainability initiatives (present in 5.6%). 

France’s shares are particularly high - its top two most in-demand sustainability skills include sustainability strategies and net zero, and both skills are present in an astonishing 95.2% of French sustainability postings. 

Meeting sustainability requirements with data 

Hopefully some of these insights have sparked your interest in following sustainability trends more closely within your country or region. The responsibility to continuously establish more sustainable practices and policies falls increasingly more on companies’ shoulders. Lightcast data can help you understand sustainability trends within your market, as well as the  sustainability skills and roles that may be needed in your company so you can meet the new EU requirements.

Aside from this sustainability report which uses our data, the Lightcast team has also published substantial research specifically on green jobs and skills, so we have a lot of resources we would love to show you. Get in touch with our team to explore more. 

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