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The New Span of Green Jobs is Trending Turquoise: Meet the Future of Your Sustainability Workforce

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novtalentpulse If you prefer, you can download the PDF of this Talent Pulse Briefing.

Sustainability is not just a “flavor of the month”

Sustainability, ESG, green jobs – they may be buzz words to some, but for others, these are areas of deep expertise, progress and new business success. Behind these terms lie some of the greatest areas of human need, business opportunity and workforce shifts in modern history. Sustainability is actually an unlimited horizon of opportunity and problem solving.

Sustainability is emerging as the third major horizon for change for employers, following automation and digitization. And just as it was with those revolutions, it is now up to organizations to shine a light into every possible corner where sustainability can be optimized.

We all know from the start that sustainability isn’t simple or easy, yet even so it’s time to ask but what have you been doing about it? First, understand why it’s part of the new normal.

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From contributing to solving climate, resource and social problems to having opportunities to increase efficiencies, innovation and community equity, all sectors have new possibilities with a sustainability focus. If you aren’t already, you and you companies want to be in on this action, expand your efforts and make them your
default practice. As traditional resources/processes dwindle and new methodologies come into play, the principles of sustainability can be a path to long-term resilience and innovation. Our new report, “Accelerating the Sustainability Workforce,” outlines how the workforce is changing and moving faster and farther to meet the disruptions, create solutions and make work and life more sustainable. This report will help you put Sustainability on permanent rotation and off the “flavor of the month” menu.

Why employers are now putting more priority on sustainability and ESG

By 2030, it’s projected that 2.1 million traditional manufacturing jobs will be lost. This deficit is estimated to cost the industry one trillion dollars. On the upside, while accurate forecasts of sustainability job increases are in progress, we see plans and commitments for investment in related sustainability efforts that indicate tremendous job opportunities including manufacturing. Public and private US commitments proposed in the Climate and Environmental Justice plan anticipate total spending of US $5 trillion by 2050. Other countries are planning their investments too so this will impact global supply chains and companies. And as business generally innovates and replaces existing methods, they’ll likely go for the more efficient, innovative and sustainable. We are anticipating a seismic shift in the jobs landscape that will form a concentration of higher skill jobs. And today’s jobs will evolve to go beyond yesterday’s green as our research confirms.

Your investors, your consumers, your employees, and future job seekers care about it too. The phenomenon known as The Great Realization has spurred an impassioned workforce ready to be very selective about joining companies with demonstrated ethics that complement their own. Spoiler Alert—this whole “grow your new green workforce” plan is pretty much a nonstarter without the right workforce in play. Just how many job seekers
actually care about sustainability? It turns out Millennials, now the largest segment of the population, care a lot. In fact, three-quarters of Millennials questioned in a recent survey state that they would take a smaller salary to work in an environmentally responsible company.

In the end, there’s a new bottom line combining people, planet and profit – including products, processes and purpose. Employers are turning their attention to both being sustainable and optimizing value, growth and cost savings opportunities, as is the case in the automotive industry. Regulatory pressure, consumer demands and product incentives have automotive manufacturers urgently revisiting and redesigning their products, reimagining their processes and scrutinizing their supply chains, all with the goal to lower emissions and manage rising costs at the same time.

How do we both understand the jobs needed to drive sustainability forward and also ensure we have the skilled people ready to step into those roles?

Let’s say leadership has committed to creating and using more sustainable solutions and puts into place ESG goals, reporting and resources over the next 10 years. That’s outstanding! But, now what? Who will design, build and operationalize these sustainable products, services and processes? What jobs and skills will be important to your sustainability journey as you move toward your goals? Do we all have the workforce to make it happen? Talent planning and management are key to achieving sustainability goals.

ESG refers to focuses on programs, plans and reporting mechanisms to achieve sustainable Environmental action, Social impact and responsible Governance (ESG). Transparency around ESG, the rise of stakeholder capitalism and the convergence of standards and reporting is creating greater urgency for companies to take the lead and identify, develop and create a strategic plan for long-term sustainability goals. And many have already.

ManpowerGroup asked 40,700 employers across 41 countries and territories about their strategic talent management plans to meet their ESG priorities. Nearly half (44%) of organizations have already identified and developed ESG goals and more than one third (34%) are in the planning stages, yet only 6% report already having the talent they need to achieve their strategy.

The many shades of sustainability

To connect the organization’s goals to day-to-day operations, step one is to broaden your understanding of “green jobs.” There is a sustainable version of every job or role on the way to or awaiting its transformation, including new opportunities and transitions to better versions of conventional roles. From sustainable product strategists to packaging or electric battery engineers to remote management technicians to community impact analysts, there’s a broad range of roles in the new mix you need to manage.

Our research unveils 775+ green+ (modernized green) and turquoise roles (business-technical, business, community and leadership roles) that will power sustainability within companies across a wide variety of industries.

Green: Legacy, conventional roles focused most directly on working in the environmental space and natural world
Green+: Roles evolving from conventional green roles to identify the more modernized workforce focused on environmental, scientific, technical and operation roles, along with integrated sustainability perspectives
Turquoise: Roles expanding beyond those dealing directly with sciences and the environment to include broader social, business and economic roles that support Green+ roles for sustainability impact.


What are some of the skills needed?

We have identified over 350 skills along with five main categories of the workforce that will need some degree of reskilling.

Thousands of examples of uptake and change exist for sustainability work and workers. The high-profile sectors Manpower identified are those that are most affected by and/or leading sustainability efforts. They include:

  • Energy & Decarbonization
  • Mobility & Transportation
  • Infrastructure
  • Architecture and Construction
  • Agriculture
  • Consumer Packaged Goods
  • Manufacturing

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Few sectors won’t be changed. Within these early adopting sectors, Manpower’s research identified specific functions where job roles are upskilling to bring new sustainability capabilities. Think the need is only for known environmental and resource roles like water quality testers or solar panel or wind turbine installers? They are only part of the new mix Manpower has identified across all work areas.

New sustainability skills impact these early adopter and high-value functions:

  • Product and Process Design
  • Engineering
  • Skilled Technical/Operations
  • Skilled Trades/Labor
  • Supply Chain
  • Regeneratives
  • Quality

One of those functions in particular showcases where a focus on automation and sustainability accelerates a revolution: Skilled Technical functions and roles.

Along with over 50 science-oriented roles, over 100 engineering-related roles, another 50+ operational roles, over 300 business and business-technical roles, and 80 leadership roles, these skilled technical roles are part of the talent map to sustainability success as the Manpower research describes.

Skilled Technical roles require skill sets that span an increasingly wider life cycle of operational and technical functions. These roles power the modern life cycle of work especially user and customer support, processing, production and distribution. How do these roles showcase sustainability and automation? Skilled Technical roles cover analysis and design support, implementation, service and maintenance and retrofitting and improvement – all areas where we see sustainable strategies, new approach and new equipment.

These roles offer key contributions to developing and using new eco-tech (think smart sensors, energy management apps, remote managed air and water quality controls). Today’s sustainability-oriented Skilled Technical roles bring broader responsibilities than many previous technician or skilled trades roles. Many bridge solution engineering with adoption and transformation. A key benefit of these roles though is the revolution we’ve seen for years that is now in full view: supporting and using digital, automation and sustainability technologies, including higher-impact customer support and user experience duties, and contributing to design and development of the technologies.

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Within the 775+ roles that our sustainability experts looked at across sectors and functions, our manufacturing-focused workforce experts have identified Skilled Technical roles with a sustainability focus that will be critical to many organizations moving forward:

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Top Ways to Find Skilled Technical and Sustainability Talent

  1. Don't wait! Skilled technical talent is already in short supply. And we believe demand will only continue to grow.

  2. Make sure looking at skilled technical roles is part of identifying your new mix. Check for the roles you need across all of your functions to achieve efficiencies, enable innovations and manage the risks of being unsustainable.

  3. Focus on the best-fit individuals. In a world where technical and science skills are in short supply, focus on candidates with the right key attributes — not necessarily specific work experience.

  4. When it doesn’t exist, build it. Many sustainability-focused jobs, including those skilled technical roles, are still difficult to hire for due to the new skills, industry tech specifics, and increasing uptake in the marketplace. In many cases individuals in adjacent roles can upskill to meet those skill requirements. Employers are reimagining their learning programs to incorporate the career pathways and courseware needed to properly train people for these positions.

    Incorporating these strategies into your processes can help ensure you’re recruiting the best-fit candidates.

Walking the walk

As you shift your organization to incorporate more green+ and turquoise job roles, it’s important that they connect with your ESG commitments, and are prioritized and communicated across the organization. Make sure you represent your goals, how you’re reaching your goals and which roles and employment opportunities directly contribute, as well as any partnerships and alliances you may have in the sustainability space. And be loud about it. Make sure your ESG report is on your website where candidates can easily access it and incorporate sustainability messaging into your job postings and recruiting processes. More and more job candidates want to know your sustainability practices and work aligns with their values.

To operationalize your sustainable workforce, our report offers concrete direction. As employers:

  • Plan and hire the sustainability workforce mix that enables evidence-based goals
  • Perform workforce and skill audits to track these performance goals
  • Build sustainability-centered employer value propositions
  • Invite science to the table – biologists, life cycle assessors, regenerative SMEs – no matter what business you’re in
  • Invest in Eco-Tech – the innovative tools and technologies that combine automation, digitization and now sustainability. They draw the skilled technical workforce you’ll need (along with many other functions)!

How can Manpower help?

Recruiting Personas
To help organizations refocus and reframe their candidate search, we develop future-focused, research-driven recruiting personas for your key roles that clarify the skills, traits, and aspirations needed to carry teams forward. Recruiting personas help you better understand the talent you are targeting, expand your target talent pools to related roles or unconventional backgrounds that could be a good fit for you, enable the design of more effective yet exclusive recruiting strategies, and more to accelerate your sustainability opportunities and solve your resource problems.

Browse our talent snapshots, abbreviated recruiting personas, for a glimpse of how we can help you refresh your recruiting efforts.

Success Profiles
Success profiles are essentially supercharged job descriptions that are based on research and insights from industry experts. When redesigning jobs or work teams, employers are not always aware of subject matter experts’ views of how jobs have changed, what new jobs/roles are emerging, how conventional jobs/roles are evolving, and how to redesign roles for success or to capture new capabilities and bring new value to the organization.

Sustainability Workforce Review
Our workforce experts can work with you to evaluate how well your sustainability plans align with your workforce strategy and plans. From understanding the outcomes you are trying to achieve over defined timelines to helping you define the combination of roles and skills needed to achieve the outcome, to developing an action plan to close the gap, Manpower can support your sustainability journey.

Engage a workforce expert who also has a handle on accelerating sustainability skills in your workforce planning and recruiting strategy.

Job openings still continue to outpace job seekers, continuing a candidate market. It’s even tougher to find skilled technical talent with the experience you require including sustainability skills and capabilities. Don’t go it alone – lean on your workforce partners and staffing agencies for support in sourcing and qualifying the best fit candidates for your temporary and permanent hiring needs.

A workforce solutions firm with sustainability experience can help you figure out what roles you need, then shape your job description in the most compelling manner, get in front of active job candidates with the skills you’re looking for, consult on recruiting strategy to help optimize it, and guide you on the best ways to attract the level of
qualified candidates you need. Even more, Manpower helps companies understand their total workforce cost (think beyond wages and benefits) and recommends strategies to optimize it. We can also give you a view into how competitive you are when compared to other companies recruiting talent in your market with our Workforce Success Index.


The shared horizon in ahead is clear, and the pressure is on. There are opportunities and immediate needs to create and use sustainability solutions. To deliver on the promises made within your ESG performance commitments, you must commit a significant amount of focus on your workforce, reimagining it in a way that enables sustainability and drives progress. We can build this new green+ and turquoise workforce together – informed by research-backed insights. Manpower can help you identify your new workforce mix, build paths for people to join the mix, and help them upskill into future-focused roles that align with their values while advancing many business sectors, especially modern manufacturing.




Determine your new mix

Find the skilled people you need to build a strong connection to your organization’s sustainability goals.

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