LinkedIn’s Allen Blue: “Half of all jobs will be redefined by climate change”
More people and places around the world are experiencing the dramatic disruptions of a planet under threat. From California to Siberia, the climate crisis is weaving its way into everyday life, seeping into new consciences and altering expectations of normality.
But not everyone has been affected – yet. And not everyone sees climate as a matter of personal importance.
But consider this: roughly half of the global workforce will be directly impacted by, and will urgently need to adapt to, climate change. According to LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue, if we are to secure our existence on a stable planet, we need a whole-of-the-economy approach that involves redefining many of our professions.
This starts, he explains, by equipping as much of the world’s workforce as possible with specific skills that allow professionals to both thrive in, and contribute to, a sustainable planet.
With green skills, Blue says, professionals can not only play their part in confronting the most urgent challenge facing humanity, but reap the benefits that the green transformation presents: a healthier and more equitable future of work.
San Francisco 2020, after the labor day fires. Patrick Perkins/Unsplash.
From farmers to financiers, an increasingly wide range of professionals are applying green skills in their daily jobs — not only to adapt to climate related events such as extreme weather, but to stay ahead of the curve.
The transition to a net zero economy by 2050, at the very latest, will trigger a fundamental transformation across most sectors. New jobs will be created, while some jobs will be replaced and others redefined. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 24 million jobs worldwide could be created by the green economy by 2030 alone.
It is both a challenge and an opportunity that the world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn, is embracing with resolve. Not only is it helping its 775 million users, representing over 55 million registered companies and 200 countries, make the “green shift”, LinkedIn is on track to be carbon negative by 2030 and remove all its historical emissions by 2050. The commitments mirror those of its parent company, Microsoft.
“Our [climate] commitment has become part and parcel of how we plan everything we do. From the buildings that our employees are in, to our travel policies, to the way we think about our colocation facilities for our data centres and our supply chain. You need to think differently at every single level of the company,” Blue begins.
One of the biggest challenges, according to Blue, is reducing the carbon emissions from its data centres. “The computers used to serve LinkedIn, to provide the service to our members, require huge buildings, data centres, which consume a lot of electricity.” Mitigating their impact involves accessing clean energy and driving efficiency – even rethinking the way developers write code, says Blue.
Another challenge, according to Blue, is building the right kind of supply chain: “Every company is reliant on other companies to be successful. One of the challenges that all of us face is how do you build a supply chain, where you’re working with your supply chain partners, which ensures we are all working together to reach a climate goal?” As part of its supplier code of conduct, LinkedIn now requests its suppliers to report and reduce their carbon emissions.
What’s most interesting about LinkedIn’s climate strategy, however, is not necessarily its commitment to eliminating emissions – as all companies should – but its instinct to ensure that it helps its vast network discover and deploy green skills across the entire economy.
“The critical thing about addressing climate is the need for speed. We have to make transitions to a green economy very quickly if we are to head off some of the worst impacts of climate change. We hope that the work that we are doing will help millions of companies move more quickly towards their own green transformations,” says Blue.
Those in green jobs represent a relatively small number of jobs that are going to be affected by climate change. Unsplash/Science in HD.
Green skills can be defined as the knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society. Green jobs, meanwhile, are defined as positions in any industry aimed at tackling environmental threats. But the latter, according to Blue, represent “a relatively small number of the total jobs that are going to be affected by climate change.”
However, jobs that are non-traditionally “green” are increasingly requiring green skills. “Whether they are supply chain managers, product designers, manufacturing managers, around 50% of jobs will have to take on some additional green skills. The job will be a little different,” says Blue.
LinkedIn’s job, according to Blue, “is figuring out how green skills can be discovered and deployed in a way that helps us speed towards a decarbonized and resilient world. There’s obviously so much more to do, but from LinkedIn’s perspective making sure that professionals everywhere have the skills they need in order to be able to contribute to fighting climate change is a major focus.”
LinkedIn’s Economic Graph team has found that demand for talent with green skills has steadily increased since 2017 as governments and companies have stepped up their commitments and actions to achieve their climate and sustainability goals.
“Especially in the last two years, we have seen very strong growth in employers asking for green skills, and green jobseekers signaling those skills on their profiles. So, an acceleration has taken place,” says Blue.
But will enough of the workforce be supported sufficiently to make this transition in time? “Let’s roll the clock back a little bit to the beginning of the period of globalization,” says Blue.
“Back then, if you were a supply chain manager, your job was changing. You were becoming more aware of the opportunities for bringing services and goods to and from places outside of your home country. And so, the international skills you needed in order to be successful in that role changed. Eventually people became trained in those skills; it became very common, to the point that it just became the job.
“We’re going through that same transition right now. A supply chain manager who has got used to working on a global stage, and considering primarily putting price first, will now have to add another set of skills, which are about considering carbon footprint. Not just the carbon footprint of the supplier, but also of the transport required to deliver goods and services. So, there’s a collection of new skills, which will simply become part of that job.”
The kinds of transitions required, says Blue, “are not night and day differences from the work that we do right now. But rather, they’re small alterations to consider a new set of factors, which, if everyone adopts those new skills, will help us move much more quickly towards an overall worldwide climate solution.”
Climate change is already impacting supply chains. Unsplash.
While LinkedIn is a mammoth company with an influence to match (four people are hired every minute on LinkedIn), it’s also aware that avoiding runaway climate change will take a “worldwide effort… every company, every government, is going to have to do their part to make it successful,” says Blue.
“We hope everything we’re doing, from providing additional information about green skills, to helping employers build and train their teams to face the [climate] crisis, will be a major contribution. But we look out at what governments can do, or what anyone at any level can do, and see that there is such a huge number of things that actually need to happen.”
“We know the things that we need to do. We know we need to make the necessary investments. And I hope governments can take those steps and take them quickly. That’s really the most important contribution,” he says.
To do this, Blue believes that governments must find better ways of working with corporations – “millions of companies of all different sizes, doing all different things – and consider the things that those corporations can contribute, and encourage them to do so. And in the end require them to do so.”
“We’re hoping that [COP26] can be a tremendous opportunity for a first ever public-private coalition to solve the climate crisis that we all must work on. We have an opportunity, for us as citizens of the world, to let our guards down a little bit and work together on this problem. We must set aside some of the things that have made it difficult for us to work together in the past, at least for this one, tremendously important effort.
“The goal should be to make it as easy as falling down for a company to make this transition. Nobody should be in a position where the tools are too expensive, where the knowledge is too hard to get, where the support is too hard to find. We need to make sure companies in the end are able, and I would say willing, even desirous, to make a difference here. But it is true that when some say they’re limited on resources, they’re serious. They’re limited in terms of what they’re actually able to do. So, I think our goal collectively should be to make it an easy choice. And ensure that when companies are ready to take the plunge, they find that the water is warm and they can do it easily.
“I hope that the opportunity that we have here to address this problem together can be something which is rewarding for all of us, as we all make a contribution to what the future actually looks like.
“And I hope that individual professionals, who are looking around and saying, ‘well, what does all this mean for me?’ can have confidence to know that what’s being asked of them, and how they can contribute, will ultimately make them better professionals; prepare them for better and longer-lived future opportunities. And that the transition they may be envisioning for themselves is not as difficult as they probably imagined. It’s up to all of us to make sure that that’s actually the case.”