Recruitment in industrial and construction: ESG profiles with management skills are urgently needed

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Peter Pallesen

Partner & Regional Director, Denmark


+45 22 34 87 60

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Sustainability has become an integral part of many companies’ growth and business strategies – regardless of sector. Industrial and construction are no exception. Today, sustainability is incorporated into everything from the design and energy consumption of the building to the communication and marketing of the project.

Over the last 5-6 years, market demand for sustainability skills has exploded. This poses major challenges when it comes to recruiting new staff. There are very few profiles with skills that combine management and business with sustainability.

Industrial cannot keep up with market demand

As sustainability strategies are established at the top management level, it is not something that can be ignored when recruiting new staff. As a result, the demand for sustainability skills has accelerated to such an extent that industrial has not been able to keep up.

A well-known challenge for many companies is precisely to find sustainability profiles with management and business experience. This is a very difficult task, as large parts of the sector have not had the capacity to catch up at the same pace as the market.

Industrial is not mature enough to respond to the growing need for sustainability

Construction and industrial are particularly vulnerable because, in addition to their own sustainability profile, a wide range of external stakeholders are involved in the value and supply chain. Checking for compliance in all corners of the value and supply chain is a resource- and time-consuming task that will compromise business objectives in the short term. It is therefore a rather simple cost-benefit analysis that shows that resources cannot be earmarked for the sustainability agenda without compromising the business.

Sustainability is not good business – yet

Over a relatively short period of time, sustainability has become closely linked to – and is often directly anchored in – companies’ ambitions within business growth. Especially when we talk 5-10 and 15 years into the future. There is no doubt that the longer-term potential is enormous with all market trends pointing in that direction.

“Right now, there is no big gain in running the business in a more sustainable direction. This is because the short-term impact is often not in line with the commercial objectives”, says Niels Lorenzen, Director of Compass Human Resources Group.

Another strategy is to consider lost turnover as an investment. In this way, you ‘make up’ for lost turnover, as you do not have to devote time and resources to a real major turnaround in the future.

Business first

The key is to put business first. Without growth and satisfactory results, it is almost impossible to compete on another parameter, such as sustainability. By this we mean that business skills, combined with management experience, are paramount when it comes to recruitment. Sustainability skills and knowledge can be acquired over time, whereas management and business experience are fundamental to running large organisations. Few people hire a candidate into a management role without experience in the role.

The extremes must meet in the middle

Sustainability is an ideology that needs to be translated into an applicable set of values that can be rolled out across the business, and as a discipline it is a business area that needs to deliver on the overall commercial objectives. Finding the balance is a very difficult exercise because it is about integrating sustainability without compromising the commercial.

It is temporarily a matter of establishing a strategy that allows the company to free up resources to retrain and upskill existing staff at all levels. This is particularly true for managers and decision-makers close to the business. It can be extremely valuable for managers to acquire skills in the area of sustainability, so that the impact on the business can be felt in both the short and long term. In particular, onboarding new employees so that they understand the company’s sustainability objectives and strategy from the outset – and that the company’s sustainability focus is linked to its commercial objectives.

The change is happening now

Companies need a clear sustainability strategy to stay relevant to investors. The industry is moving faster than many can keep up. For many companies it is therefore a question of survival.

The largest Danish companies are required to report on their corporate social responsibility (CSR) work – or ESGs – in their annual reports. Today, corporate responsibility requires great insight and knowledge about how to run a sustainable business – especially when we talk about the industrial and construction sectors. There is a strong focus from investors (or customers) on ESGs – and that companies have a declared ESG strategy.

Sustainability requirements for the financial sector are steadily growing. Demand from clients and investors has been increasing in recent years.

Sustainability in the financial sector: The green agenda has attraction value for investors, clients and candidates



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