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  • Writer's pictureChrissa Pagitsas

Three Green Skills for Employees to Develop for Sustainability Success

Business woman standing on a stool reaching for a green leaf
Green skills for sustainability success

Conversations with global business leaders over the last two months have confirmed my conviction that green skills should be the strategic focus for businesses in 2024. My January 2024 blog talks about why.

Today, let's talk about what green skills are. These are the skills every employee needs to deliver on sustainability and social impact goals at their company - even if they are not on the sustainability team.

Green skills, per my definition, are composed of three dimensions of knowledge and expertise: 1) Technical Expertise, 2) Motivating Knowledge and 3) “Yes, And” Mindset. Together they form the three-legged support for the sustainability platform. While you can balance on one leg for quite some time, you are more easily knocked over by market, internal politics, external policies, and budgetary forces.


The first dimension is Technical Expertise. No sustainability platform succeeds without at least a certain set of employees having technical expertise. It’s the first leg of the sustainability platform, and most articles and research have focused on how to build technical expertise within some employees. A classic (but tired) example is the electrical engineering expertise required to install solar panels and wind turbines.


However, a more necessary and less cited example are the related skills needed to recalibrate heating and ventilation systems to be more energy efficient or install water-efficient irrigation systems. Moving into materials science, it’s the technical expertise to re-tool a factory machine to use recycled plastic versus virgin plastic. A growing area of technical expertise needed in all industries is calculating the carbon footprint of materials and professional services. Even if an employee doesn’t know how to calculate carbon, most if not all employees should have the technical expertise to understand what carbon emissions are and to be able to compare carbon data points to make relevant business decisions, such as deciding to purchase one good or service over another.


This is the tip of the technical expertise iceberg. How do you develop the right technical expertise for your company’s employees? More on that in a future post as it’s a large topic. Send me your specific questions.


With technical expertise, comes the need for employees to possess Motivating Knowledge. This leg of the stool answers the question of “why” for the employee. More specifically, why is my company’s sustainability strategy relevant to me - my personal interests and my professional trajectory? Some people may answer this question by providing the company’s purpose, mission, or vision statement. Yes, I believe that’s part of it. But the deeper harder work is figuring out if that company purpose statement resonated, connected, and motivated employees.


Company leaders do need to set the purpose statement for their company at the corporate level. And then, more importantly, engage with employees – both existing and new hires – to own it for themselves. The point is to help employees answer for themselves “why should I care?” rather than ask them to believe “why the company cares.”


There are key strategies you can deploy to get to this motivating knowledge, including company-wide employee town halls and webinars. I believe, however, that the most compelling answers to these questions come from tight workshops that dig into the question and become a personal blueprint for employees, in the same way that we use DISC and Meyers-Briggs personality tests. Doing so results in personal growth and company growth. (Interested in learning more about the workshops I lead to answer the ”why” question? Send me a note learn more about these workshops.)


The last leg of green skills is growing a “Yes, And” Mindset. Have you seen an improv show? In improvisational comedy theatre, the storyline becomes more and more ridiculous as the actors pile onto each other’s wild prompts. “Would you like to go up in a hot air balloon made of cotton candy?” asks one actor. Another actor would respond with, “Yes, and…while up there, I believe I’m going to pick diamond grapes hanging from the clouds.” This is called the “yes, and” mindset. Nothing is off the table; all is possible and probable.


This mindset is not just for improv. It is highly applicable to business and especially to sustainability where we are building new ways of doing business every day. This mindset must be a key trait used to select new employees in companies and one that is fostered in a company’s culture. It translates to employees asking about the sustainability platform and goals, “Yes, and how am I going to integrate sustainability into my job today?”  We must take the very best practices of change management and examine the science behind human behavior to capture this dimension of green skills.


What do these green skill dimensions mean for you and your company's sustainability strategy? As you launch a sustainability or ESG strategy or continue with its implementation, consider if your company’s employees have the three legs of the green skills under them. You may need to expand on one, two or three of them to hit the sustainability goals you’ve set. By thinking about this green skills stool, you can literally get a leg up on developing and implementing on delivering on your ambitious sustainability goals at your company without it wobbling under you.

Which dimension of green skills most needs to be developed in your company's employees?

  • Technical Expertise

  • Motivating Knowledge

  • Yes, And Mindset

  • Other (share in comments)

Questions, or comments? Email me at


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