Women and green jobs

April 2022

More women need green jobs to help tackle the climate crisis, says Emmeline Skelton.

The climate agenda is redefining the world of business long-term over the coming decades and it’s important for us to understand the role women can play in this challenge. ‘Work together to deliver’ was one of the mantras to come out of COP26 last November. And this immense task needs both women and men at the helm navigating this long road to net-zero.

One event I was really inspired by at COP26 was the launch of the Glasgow Women’s Leader
Summit where I learned about the different opportunities women have in the net-zero transition. I am passionate about the role of women in the fight against climate change and how we can make a difference.

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, I chaired ACCA’s webinar – The climate crisis isn’t gender-neutral: why women’s voices need to be heard – where women were at the forefront of the conversation. The event is available on demand, but I share below the best answers to some of the questions I put to the panellists. But first, let’s define a green job: a role contributing to the preservation and restoration of the environment. A green job could be from the traditional industries such as construction or manufacturing or from a new emerging green sector, like renewable energy.

As businesses in the UK and beyond become greener, some industries need help adapting their products and processes to reduce their carbon footprint, others focus on developing green technology, such as electric vehicles. All this is creating exciting opportunities and jobs that are green. And it’s important women aren’t left behind and are able to access to such jobs.

Thoughts from the webinar

What opportunities do women have in the netzero transition? Here are some thoughts:
Cristina Bortes, director, economic development and women’s economic empowerment at PwC: “80% of people displaced by climate change are estimated to be women and women are 14 times more likely to die during environmental disasters. Across the globe, women make up the majority of the workforce in sectors like agriculture, thus would be disproportionately affected by extreme weather conditions.

“The transition to net-zero would be a major driver of change of the labour market over the next few decades and businesses and government must work together to address that.
Sectors benefitting the most from the transition are utilities, construction and manufacturing and the issue with these sectors is there is a very low percentage of women making up the workforce.

“It’s a two-pronged approach, for industries where men overwhelming make up the workforce – governments and businesses need to work together to ensure the gap doesn’t widen in terms of the ratio of men and women working.

“Likewise, in sectors where women are heavily represented, we need to look at what issues they face and address them. For example, in agriculture in Africa, women grow 70% of the food, but they face huge barriers in terms of having access to information and technology.”

On ensuring equal access to green jobs

Dr. Mories Atoki, a chief executive officer for the African Business Coalition for Health:
“It’s critical to educate women, especially because of their involvement across the value chain and the supply chain process. The less the opportunities there are for women to get involved in green jobs, the more it will slow down the entire race to net-zero. There needs to be deliberate awareness on women’s understanding and the availability of green jobs to them.

“There are more women taking up roles in strategic leadership which is essential in introducing other women to such green jobs.”

How to accelerate transition

Orla Collins, ACCA’s president and deputy managing director of Aberdeen Standard
Investments in Ireland: “When we think of sustainability, we think about the full value chain of a business. Before banks give capital to people, they should ask the right questions relating to sustainability. And it’s a business owners’ duty to think about where they are buying their goods and services from. And in turn they should be challenging their suppliers to be thinking in a sustainable way.

“Regarding managing capital ACCA is a pioneer for business change and business reporting. It’s not just about profit and loss.

Accounting for the true cost of business will give investors a better sense on how business is making an impact on the planet.

“ACCA members should be part of the process of harmonising sustainability standards with the accounting standards to shape the future.”

Bonnie Chan, an ACCA member and financial planning and analysis manager at the Green Organic Dutchman in Canada: “Inclusion and diversity are at the top of the agenda when it comes to sustainability. Policies must be in place to ensure women have access to opportunities at all levels.”

These were sobering answers, ones we can’t ignore. I hope you get a chance to tune in to the webinar as this is an important topic for the accountancy profession.

• Emmeline Skelton, head of sustainability, ACCA