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Microsoft president wants more training for employees to fight climate change

Brad Smith says workers need to learn more about carbon accounting, green procurement and supply chain management for businesses to fight global warming.

Brad Smith, president of Microsoft Corp. calls on companies, schools and governments to dramatically increase employee training for new and redesigned functions to address the climate crisis. The software giant, which has pledged to remove more carbon than it emits by 2030, says the lack of skills in areas such as carbon accounting, green procurement and supply chain management threaten the kind of progress needed to tackle global warming. to put a stop to.

The company, together with the Boston Consulting Group, studied 15 companies they believe were at the forefront of sustainability innovation to prepare a report on what is needed. Microsoft plans to develop and share more training resources through its LinkedIn activities, partner with United Nations and International Monetary Fund groups and NGOs, and convene a conference of corporate chief sustainability officers to share best practices .

Smith will discuss the efforts at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon today. He spoke with Bloomberg Green about what it takes in the job market to tackle climate change. The interview has been edited and shortened.

As you see it, what is the challenge?

About 3,900 companies around the world have signed up for climate pledges. But what we are discovering as the leading technology provider to these companies is that we all now need to figure out how to turn these commitments into progress. That’s easier said than done. It will require a real revolution in various business processes and in the use of digital technology as core components. But basically it all depends on building a more skilled workforce.

How do we know we are deficient in these kinds of skills?

LinkedIn conducted a study a year ago – which found that the number of jobs in the economy that require sustainability skills is growing at 8% per year, but the number of people in the labor market with these skills is growing at just 6% per year. year. So we see a gap, and in fact we see a widening of this gap. As we entered the digital age, we had to bring computer science to schools and we had to bring digital fluency to the workplace. Looking at the data, employers around the world actually invested more in employee training between 1980 and 2000. Computers entered the labor market – people had to be trained in how to use them. But we saw employers’ investment in employee training really decline after the year 2000 and have been stagnant ever since. We will have to invest again in employee training.

What kind of jobs are we talking about?

Some of these will be sustainability specialists. There are many more people working on a wide variety of other business processes, such as procurement and supply chain management, and now they need a significant dose of sustainability background and fluency to help their companies deliver on their climate promises. There will be new jobs and existing jobs. It’s people who do carbon accounting – these could be people who have done financial accounting, but now they will be financial accountants and carbon accountants at the same time.

Will it be more a matter of training people for new jobs or retraining in existing positions?

For every category I can name that’s new, there are probably five that exist, but are changing, because of the climate promises companies have made. A simple example: people have to change the purchasing process. They have to redesign those reports from their suppliers. They then need to work with their suppliers to help them reduce their carbon emissions. Another very interesting example that we discovered at Microsoft is that virtually all kitchens in the world have to switch from cooking with gas to cooking with electricity instead. We’ve started doing that with some of the big kitchens at Microsoft. And in the coming years, we’re going to start changing all of our kitchens and cafeterias to use electric instead of gas. It turns out that people need to be retrained in the way they cook.

What is the risk if we don’t solve the skills shortage here?

We need to tackle this with a tremendous sense of urgency. It is easy, as this decade has unfolded to focus first on Covid and then on the war in Ukraine, focus on the energy shortage in Europe and lose sight of the urgency of the climate crisis. But it is a crisis.

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