Microsoft’s president warns of talent shortage for tackling climate change


(Reuters) – Thousands of businesses will fail to meet pledges to combat climate change unless they start training employees on sustainability, Microsoft Corp’s (MSFT.O) President Brad Smith told Reuters.

Speaking ahead of a report the software maker released Wednesday, Smith said common instruction on issues like carbon accounting was too piecemeal for the roughly 3,900 companies that have vowed to cut their CO2 emissions.

“We have to move very quickly to start to bring our emissions down, and the ultimate bottleneck is the supply of skilled people,” he said.

Microsoft sells software for organizations to track their environmental impact. Still, companies need more than technology to address global warming, said Smith, announcing plans to develop green education materials including on LinkedIn, which Microsoft owns.

Wednesday’s study, by Microsoft and Boston Consulting Group, found that many corporate environmental leaders – 68% – were internal hires whose team members lacked sustainability-related degrees more often than not. The findings primarily stemmed from interviews and surveys with Microsoft and eight other large companies in sectors such as finance and consumer goods.

It took one Microsoft employee, for instance, more than 30 years at the company moving through customer-support, procurement and other roles before a promotion to lead part of its sustainability team – a time horizon the report contrasted with an expected 11 years before humanity will have released a dire amount of carbon dioxide.

While Microsoft itself has grown its sustainability headcount to about 250 employees from only 30 largely in the past three years, having the right workforce to deliver on its carbon-reduction goals remains a challenge, Smith said.

“That is in part an issue for us because it’s an issue for everybody,” he said. “Employers really need to step back and take a broader look at their investment in employee learning and training.”

Companies should bring in instructors, pay for continuing education and convene on carbon-reduction strategies, he said.

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