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Joanna Bonnett: Green Jobs Foundation


Carbon Copy’s Chief Storyteller Isabelle Sparrow sat down with the Green Jobs Foundation’s CEO, Joanna Bonnett, to learn more about their research and recommendations.

IS: What is The Green Jobs Foundation?

JB: “The Green Jobs Foundation is a unique and independent voice. We were founded in 2022, so we’re relatively young compared to other charities. Founded in reaction to the climate crisis; the Foundation’s aim is to accelerate awareness of and access to green jobs. It was formed as a “think and do” foundation, to tackle the practical issues around the fundamental question of our time: 

“’How, in the UK, and the rest of the world can we successfully move to a low-carbon, or zero-carbon society, whilst leaving no one behind?’

“Day-to-day the Foundation fulfills its mission through a range of research, thought leadership and convenings. We work to design and pilot different approaches to the just transition, reskilling and job placements; ultimately disseminating and scaling the learnings that we have.”

IS: And what do you mean by a green job?

JB: “I think lots of people have lots of different definitions of a green job. We see it as both direct and indirect employment that contribute positively to the environment.

“It isn’t just about the energy industry. It is also about those support functions that are also vital for us to become a carbon neutral or carbon net zero economy going forward.”

IS: How can people who have traditionally worked in polluting industries move into a greener career?

JB: “There are lots of opportunities for people who have come from working in fossil fuel industries…Perhaps you worked on an oil rig or within, say, oil extraction. You know how to pull liquid elements up out of the ground. In the future, with carbon capture, a large amount of that requires the same skills, but rather than pulling up out of the ground or perhaps out of the seabed, or is about pushing stuff back down through the carbon capture process. The skills are broadly directly transferable. There will be elements of retraining, but you will be at the forefront of the industry going forward.”

IS: What are the benefits to employers offering training and support with green jobs?

JB: “There are many benefits to employers for providing green jobs within their workforce. There’s a lot of evidence that millennials and those about to enter the workforce are very purpose driven, very values driven, more than perhaps in the past. And people want to work within an exciting job. It doesn’t matter what job you want to do, you want that job to have meaning.

“By offering a very clear narrative as an organisation: how you are tackling your own net zero journey, how you’re working to science-based targets, what you are doing for society as well. All of these elements will help you to attract the best talent. Not only that, but when you’ve attracted them, you can make sure your best and brightest, your most enthusiastic, your most motivated, will want to stay much longer.

IS: Do green jobs pay well?

JB: “I think this is a really interesting question, and one of three we answered in our report released in autumn 2023:

“‘Are there more green jobs in the UK compared to previously?’

“‘Are the jobs going locally and regionally or are they all London centric? And does this mean they are contributing positive or negatively to the levelling up agenda within the UK context?’

“Are green jobs well paid compared to perhaps their traditional counterparts?’

“Now instincts would tell me (and this is me as a person that has worked for seven years for a large multinational recruiter) that there were probably going to be more green jobs advertised than previously. Our research and our conversations on the ground within the Green Jobs Foundation had pretty much answered that, but we didn’t know factually whether that was the case or not. And so, our research demonstrated that there we were correct. There 35% more green jobs advertised in 2023 compared to 2022 and 43% more green jobs advertised in 2022 compared to 2021. In 2022, the green jobs advertised equated to 3% of the job market.

“We didn’t know the answer to the second question and we worked with many different partners to do a deep dive. We could see where the jobs were being advertised, but we didn’t know about the correlation perhaps to the levelling up agenda.

“We were delighted to see that the green jobs are being advertised and felt locally and they are not London centric. I’m not ignoring London. London absolutely has its fair share of green jobs being created, but very importantly locally, say for example, in Aberdeen or in the Humber or in Cornwall, there are sizable projects going in the clusters and these areas are creating good local jobs.

“Now back to the question of whether green jobs are paid better than perhaps their traditional counterparts. This was the third question that we asked ourselves. We worked with the Living Wage Foundation, to also do a deep dive to make sure where the jobs were paid, whether they paid at the Real Living Wage, the National Minimum Wage or the National Living Wage.

 “We were delighted to see that across-the-board green jobs were getting paid higher than their traditional counterpart. I think this is partly due to the fact that there is a shortage in the green jobs space. So arguably, there is a bit of a premium attached to those with the right skills to get into the jobs that are being created.

“This means it is good news for those that have invested in themselves and their skills, they can get a pay rise to move to a greener job. But where we really focused our time was at the lowest salary bands. Where these jobs were being paid at that very low salary point, were they paid better than their traditional counterparts?

“The answer to this was a resounding yes. Green jobs are paid better than their traditional counterpart. And this is particularly important at the Real Living Wage level.  

IS: What action would you like to see from employers or education providers?

JB: “My request to employers is that they must embrace the green transition, and that they must start training and retraining their staff members. At the Green Jobs Foundation, we are in the process of building a Green Job intern programme, and we ask major employers, as well as jobseekers that are currently at university, to engage with the programme and to join the pilot schemes that are going on across the UK, so that we’ll be able to scale this going forward. Through this, we’re able to offer a very robust and resounding solution to the current shortage in the pipeline.”

To read more about inspiring businesses, councils and other organisations that are helping to fill the green jobs skills gap, discover our blog, New Year, New (Green) Career.

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