As the British economy continues its gradual reopening, there is growing motivation to ensure that businesses can “build back better” from the difficulties of pandemic restrictions.
Of course, while the impact of COVID-19 has been devastating, lockdowns have revealed some truths about our economic and societal organisation. Our actions and the effects they have on the environment, as well as inequalities in the labour force, have become more prevalent.
The return to normality should now be taken as an opportunity. Retraining the workforce and pursuing sustainable strategies should be a priority for businesses. Here, we explore why the economy needs investment into sustainable workplaces and staff to successfully escape the looming presence of a recession.
There has been a clear shift in the way that people work and where they work. It is unsurprising to hear that some of these changes will be permanent. A survey by the Institute of Directors shows that 74 per cent of businesses intend to maintain the increase of homeworking capabilities. Businesses are ready for a future of remote working, where travel and commuting will be reduced, and automated services will become more prominent in workplaces.
These changes in working behaviour and capability mean that many jobs will not return after the pandemic, even when the economy is fully reopened. Government data shows that 314,000 people were made redundant between July and September in 2020.
Retraining is a vital component for encouraging workers back into the labour force. Businesses must understand the changed perceptions and varied experiences of the labour force, as well as their priorities for secure, ethical, and sustainable employment in the future.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, there was an increased focus on tackling climate change. Recovering from the past year, protecting jobs and lives from both public health and economic crisis begins by investing in sustainability. Construction is one area identified as integral to the economic recovery, but only through social well-being, climate-resilient infrastructure, and sustainable waste strategies can the economy create significant near-term job creation. The need for rapid job creation aligns with the requirement for urgent action on the environment.
By 2030, there could be as many as 694,000 green jobs in England, according to the local government association. These roles will be diverse across industry and occupation, driving businesses to more sustainable production methods and practices.
This can be seen in the construction sector, where sustainable waste management services are ensuring that waste is recycled and reduced through innovative strategies that also incorporate social value into their offering. This is important, considering that two-thirds of the UK’s waste can be attributed to construction. In retail and wholesale industries, sustainable jobs can also help drive minimisation and circularity, finding alternatives to plastics and ensuring recycling is integral to the design process.
Ultimately, with the climate emergency, green aspects to all jobs are essential when contributing to growing a low carbon economy.
There are pre-existing ideas of what constitutes a green job, and what sectors can create them. Even businesses that already have a low environmental impact can benefit from employing sustainable strategies to help promote their brand as well as creating jobs. Analysis from the Green New Deal UK suggests that all jobs lost to the coronavirus pandemic could be replaced in just two years. However, they emphasise that we must change the notion of green jobs.
Green jobs extend beyond the sphere of clean energy and electric cars. In fact, our carers, teachers, cleaners, and builders all have a role to play in this new circular economy. From ensuring that waste is minimised and recycled to educating other people about the importance of a clean environment, the economy can be transformed with jobs and services that prioritise sustainability.
In review, green jobs are key to economic recovery, but they can only be created by companies that are willing to grow, adapt, and prioritise sustainability. Investing in the development of existing staff and new recruits into new green roles is vital. All businesses can be green businesses, and all jobs can be green jobs, from care to construction.