How critical is workforce diversity in the burgeoning renewable energies sector?

14 January 2016

The anticipated growth of the renewable energies sector – following last month’s historic UN climate change agreement – must bring with it some exciting opportunities to test the business benefits that a diverse workforce can bring to emerging markets.

German energy giant E.ON cited “dramatically altered globally energy markets” as a key driver for its splitting of the business into two parts earlier this month. Their new company Uniper will handle fossil fuels, creating more space for E.ON to pursue renewables and energy efficiency services. In the UK, the manufacturing sector has already felt the benefit of the sustainability agenda: with Siemens securing a “major coup for the British wind industry” and British-owned SMEs like Mabey Group finding their place in the market for British-made wind turbine towers.  

In a values-led business sector experiencing growth, there are clear business opportunities to be gained from building a diversity strategy. As we’ve seen in the engineering sector in recent years, there will be a race for talent. Companies will need to broaden their search if they are to find, recruit and retain the best technical people. Growing their talent pool logically means finding access to female talent – crudely put, how can you recruit the best if you are only going to 50% of the potential talent pool? – and then building in culture change programmes to ensure that talented women stay with them throughout their careers.

Established in the 1940s, Birmingham-based SME Carter Retail Equipment have been a world-leader in commercial refrigeration for many years. Their diversification into energy-efficient manufacturing has positioned them as the UK market leader, with clients’ own sustainability agendas – Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Waitrose, among others – driving the company’s expansion into overseas markets.

Carter’s Head of Sales and Marketing Geoff Amos is a co-founder of the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council, an action-orientated not-for-profit company which, with the backing of Whole Foods Market, aims to build the market in the US for the types of renewable products which have been pioneered in the UK. Geoff sees gender balance as a key priority for the renewables sector and also believes that a shift in organisational culture will need to be managed if growth opportunities are to be maximised.

“There are ethical challenges for companies doing business in developing nations, and also cultural barriers which will need to be overcome.

“Internally there will also be cultural shifts taking place as the leadership transition is made from Baby Boomers to Gen X and Millennials. These new leaders grew up with sustainability and environmental messages. They are conversant in this area and know how to market it. Developing future leadership talent will be critical to the longevity and sustainability of the British renewables sector.”


EDF Energy Pretty Determined - Views from EW

 

EDF certainly think so. The French state-owned company’s (perhaps controversially-titled) Pretty Curious campaign, aims to encourage more girls into studying STEM subjects. If this campaign and others like it are successful, these women will enter the talent pipeline just in time for the 2020 climate deal to come into effect. It seems our future depends upon it.