The Role of Soft Skills in Sustainability Transformation: Unveiling the true potential.

By | Last Updated: 16 April 2024


                                                         Image generated by DALL.E 2

Read in Spanish here

In the realm of sustainability leadership, the power of soft skills often goes underappreciated. Yet, as we venture deeper into the complexities of sustainable development, it becomes clear that technical know-how alone cannot steer the monumental shift required for a sustainable and restorative future. This is where the innovative assessment tools comes into play, designed to identify development opportunities between traditional skillsets and the nuanced competences needed for effective sustainability leadership.

The Foundation of GreenComp

The GreenComp framework, a pioneering initiative led by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission. Born out of a necessity for a unified approach to sustainability education, GreenComp serves as a beacon for developing the competences essential for living, working, and acting in harmony with our planet. The framework, endorsed by the European Competence Framework for Green Skills, outlines 12 competences spread across four key areas: embodying sustainability values, embracing complexity, envisioning sustainable futures, and acting for sustainability.


Illustration in Spanish by Skills4Impact based on Greencomp framework

Skillsets of the framework

  1. Valuing Sustainability: Encouraging reflection on personal and collective values aligning with sustainability.
  2. Supporting Fairness: Advocating for equity and justice across generations.
  3. Promoting Nature: Fostering respect for and regeneration of ecosystems.
  4. Systems Thinking: Understanding the interconnectedness of societal and environmental systems.
  5. Critical Thinking: Evaluating information and arguments critically, with a sustainability lens.
  6. Problem Framing: Identifying and articulating sustainability challenges in a comprehensive manner.
  7. Futures Literacy: Imagining and planning for sustainable futures.
  8. Adaptability: Managing transitions and adapting to sustainability challenges.
  9. Exploratory Thinking: Innovating for sustainability through interdisciplinary approaches.
  10. Political Agency: Navigating and influencing political processes for sustainability.
  11. Collective Action: Collaborating with others to effect change.
  12. Individual Initiative: Recognizing and utilizing personal capacity for sustainability impact.

Bridging the Gap with Skills4Impact

Recognizing the urgent need for a workforce that is not only aware of sustainability challenges but also equipped to address them, the Skills4Impact assessment tool emerges as a easy and powerful solution. Built on the GreenComp framework, this digital tool developed by Skills4Impact in a co-creation process with Barcelona+B includes around 50 questions aimed at measuring the 12 competences essential for sustainability leadership providing a detailed report with an overall score and detailed scores for each dimension. 

Identifying Sustainability Skills Gaps

One of the tool’s core functions is to help managers pinpoint sustainability skills gaps within their organizations with an online scoring. In today's rapidly evolving landscape, understanding where these gaps lie is the first step towards fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation. The Skills4Impact tool provides a clear, actionable insight into areas where current employees or new applicants may lack the knowledge, skills, or attitudes necessary to contribute effectively to sustainability goals.

Uncovering Change Makers

Perhaps even more importantly, the assessment tool serves to highlight the potential "change makers" within an organization. These are individuals who not only possess a strong foundation in the 12 competences but also demonstrate a profound commitment to driving sustainable change. By identifying these  "sustainability ambassadors", ESG and sustainability managers can invite those passionate employees to collaborate in any sustainability project inside the organization to inspire their peers, promote the projects beyond the "silos" and cultivate a collective sense of purpose for a culture of sustainability.

Aligning Skills with Market Needs in the Green Economy

In the shift towards a sustainable future, the market for green professional activities is rapidly expanding, demanding a unique set of skills from its workforce. These skills range from technical competencies like ecological design, environmental certification, and energy efficiency assessment to strategic abilities in leadership for sustainable development. Furthermore, adaptation and meta-cognitive skills are crucial for embracing new green technologies and processes.

To meet these demands, education and training programs must evolve, emphasizing STEM disciplines and enriching traditional roles with a green skill set. This includes not only technical and scientific knowledge but also soft skills such as communication, innovation, and consulting abilities tailored to the green economy. The transition to a low-CO2 green economy necessitates a workforce that is versatile, capable of integrating environmental objectives into their roles, and adept at leveraging green opportunities for sustainable growth.

By fostering these skills, we can ensure that employees not only meet the current market demands but also drive the green transition forward, contributing to a more sustainable and resilient future.

The Importance of Soft Skills in Sustainability Leadership

The journey towards sustainability is fraught with challenges, from systemic barriers to cognitive dissonances that hinder action. It is here that soft skills—such as critical thinking, adaptability, and collective action—become invaluable. These skills enable leaders and their teams to navigate complexities, envision alternative futures, and mobilize collective efforts towards a sustainable paradigm.

This kind of tools are grounded in the comprehensive framework provided by GreenComp, offers a nuanced approach to developing these soft skills. It goes beyond traditional training methods, fostering a holistic understanding of what it means to act sustainably in various contexts—be it as a consumer, employee, or community member.

In conclusion, as we stand at the crossroads of sustainability, the need for a competent, visionary leadership has never been more critical. By emphasizing the importance of soft skills and providing a means to assess and develop these competences, we can pave the way for a future where sustainability is not just an aspiration but a reality.


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