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What are green skills? 15 green skills, clearly explained.

From companies and charities to politicians and CEOs, everyone is seeking green skills, yet most of us don’t know what they are. Here are 15 green skills.

Written by:
Matthew Shribman

Green skills - e v e r y o n e   i s   t a l k i n g   a b o u t   t h e m!                 

Yes, every letter is linked to a different web page or article, from pages 1 to 5 of Google, about green skills.

Not one of them clearly defines what they are.

Anyone seeking to understand what green skills are might understandably get the impression that there is no clear outline of what these skills are anywhere.

Here’s a diagram about green skills from It’s the best that I could track down, but is it helpful or instructive?

In 2022, World Skills UK published a report called the Green Skills Report. According to its survey of young people in the UK (ages 16 - 24), at least nine in ten didn’t feel that they knew what green skills were. Needless to say, the report didn’t clearly define what green skills are either (aside from some specific technical skills around heat pump engineering and insulation retrofitting).

A more recent report by WSP found that, whilst 39% of students had some confidence in what “green jobs” are, only 23% had some confidence in what “green skills” are.

Personally, everyone I’ve spoken to, from CEOs of top companies to Oxbridge academics to elected officials, also has little to no clarity on what green skills are.

So why then is “green skills” one of the buzz phrases of the moment? Why, from London to Pōneke, is almost every policymaker and forward-thinking company talking about them, and espousing the need for more of us to be equipped with them?

Motivations vary.

Some are looking to get ahead, whilst others are moved to action by their recognition that we must rapidly reorganise our civilisation to ensure that our children and future generations can inherit a(n abundant) living world.

Our present reality is that we exist alongside a million living species that are now on the brink of extinction. Extinctions are occurring 1,000 times faster than they ought to be. Meanwhile, our rapidly heating planet is on track to trigger multiple tipping points set to make the heating even faster and even more irreversible.

This means that we urgently need an economy that not only sustains the life and resources around us, but regenerates nature too.

Clearly this cannot be done with the economy we have, continuing with business as usual. We need a new “green” economy. Herein lies both the imperative seen by the benevolent, and the “opportunity” seen by those with less scruples.

(As an aside, nature is not really green; it’s multicoloured. However, “green” seems to have caught on, so we’ll go with it here!)

This new “green” economy naturally requires new skills to get there. But what kinds of skills? From my own experience, setting up AimHi Earth, if we are to decide upon the skills needed, we must first decide the vision and the direction, and then find the skills to bring that vision to life.

But this is where we encounter our first problem. The world is not aligned on what a “green” future looks like.

Many, imprudently in my humble opinion as a natural scientist, see a green future as one dominated by a human civilisation in focused pursuit of escaping the “limitations” of nature, with every piece of the planet optimised for a human-centric purpose, be it intensive food production or seabed mining; a jungle of carbon capture facilities, solar farms and asteroid mining launchpads.

Whilst aspects of this vision could be positive in moderation, the overall direction misunderstands biology and the total dependence of our civilisation on a resilient and thriving natural world.

The only positive “green” future that is workable in the long term, according to the best available science, is a future that builds our human systems to work with and in support of the rest of nature, rather than against it. To achieve this, certain parts of our economy – the ecocidal industries damaging nature at scale – will inevitably need to degrow. Doing so will not only allow nature to recover, but will also mirror nature, because in nature nothing healthy grows forever.

This piece of writing is about green skills rather than “green growth” and “degrowth”, and so I won’t go much further into these things here. However, it is helpful to consider the tension between the prevalent “growth of all sectors forever” narrative and the more nuanced, nature-centric thinking of our academics and thinkers, who make jokes that only an economist would claim that we can somehow eat more and defecate less.

In my view, it’s this lack of a unified vision of where we’re going that’s at the root of the lack of clarity on what green skills we’re going to need to get there.

It’s great that there’s little disagreement that we’ll need to advance our prowess in clean energy and energy efficiency, but the list of skills we’ll need to transform our civilisation cannot end there. For starters, it’s textbook science now that further energy availability and efficiency generally result in the further exploitation and consequent destruction of natural systems, unless coupled with well-designed and well-maintained guardrails.

This is why the AimHi Earth team and I want to build on the uncertainty around “green skills” to forge greater clarity, but more so, to ensure a focus on skills that are truly compatible with a nature-centric future that’s healthy, fair and safe.

We all want our grandchildren to be able to drink clean water, breathe fresh air, and have good soil and thriving oceans. Getting there requires broader skills than just those that will allow us to advance our mastery of technology. A great deal will be about our ability to think long term, connect with nature, and respond to crises in unison.

There’s a lot of learning to be done. This crisis cannot be solved without widespread learning and everything that comes with it – innovation, stewardship, compassion and good judgement. That’s why we created AimHi Earth – to transform global understanding of the climate emergency, to activate millions of nature-first thinkers, and to accelerate the evolution of our economy and society to one of sustainability and regeneration.

Green skill 1

Critical, systems & nature-centric thinking

Understanding our world as interconnected and interdependent, asking challenging questions of ourselves and of engrained normalities, and returning to putting nature at the centre of how we think.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • Nature-centric design (designing everything to ensure that it works in synchronicity and as a compliment to nature)
  • Circularity and closed-loop thinking (planning and adapting processes to ensure that resources are cycled as best as energy constraints allow)
  • Systems redesign (e.g. supply chain redesign, economic redesign, resilience redesign)

Yes, we instil this green skill

AimHi Earth provides a solid grounding in critical, systems and nature-centric thinking through our training programmes, resources and learning experiences.

Green skill 2

Scientific understanding

Appreciation of the core scientific concepts underpinning the climate and nature emergency, from the Earth’s natural systems to the physics of the wider universe.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • Biology (from understanding the workings of nature to mimicking and synchronising with it in our designs)
  • Physics (from understanding the energetic dynamics of our atmosphere to engineering complex electronics)
  • Chemistry (from understanding the behaviour of pollutants to designing new materials that work in better harmony with nature)

We partially cover this green skill

We don’t offer training in sciences to university level. However, we do provide a solid, interconnected grounding in the core scientific concepts underpinning the climate and nature emergency. Our reviews speak for themselves on this!

Green skill 3

Nature connectivity

Embracing our fundamental interdependence with the rest of nature, and helping others around us to better connect with our living world.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • Connecting others to nature (helping others to appreciate the rest of nature and to feel a part of it)
  • Reciprocity (acknowledging the wealth that nature gives to us, and giving back to nature such that we are a contributor rather than a mere consumer)
  • Nature centrality (emotionally considering nature in our motivations and priorities)

Yes, we instil this green skill

We provide the inspiration and the impetus to better connect with nature through our training programmes, resources and learning experiences.

Green skill 4

Practical & technical “hard skills”

Specific expertise in the hard skills necessary to enable a regenerative future.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • Regenerative practice (methodologies and techniques, new and old, that work with nature; restoring rather than degrading it)
  • Closed loop management (implementation of systems that effectively upcycle materials like metals and glass, whilst minimising the use of materials that only downcycle, like plastics)
  • Electrification and clean energy engineering (from energy-saving components to renewable generation; much of our energy system will need to change, demanding these hard skills)

No, we do not teach this green skill

Whilst we instil many skills that support people in their acquisition of practical and technical hard skills, this green skill is mostly outside of our current work.

Green skill 5

Long-term thinking

Putting future generations at the heart of all decision-making, and planning for evolution and resilience.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • Adaptive leadership (optimising for lasting evolution, rather than tightly optimising for a present moment that will soon be the past)
  • Cathedral thinking (investing in the present moment to build things that will last and be of value in a range of possible futures)
  • 7th generation thinking (considering the benefit to our great, great, great, great grandchildren, as our ancestors considered us)

Yes, we instil this green skill

We engender long-term thinking through our training programmes, resources and learning experiences.

Green skill 6

Dynamic operations & crisis management

Centering creative and adaptable management, to design dynamic and resilient systems.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • Creativity and adaptability (the ability to reinvent how things have always been done; both in preparation for the uncertain, and when circumstances demand it)
  • Situational awareness and risk mitigation (consideration of whole systems and the execution of steps to minimise dangers big and small)
  • Decisiveness and organisational rigour (synthesising the best factual inputs and scientific advice to form clear, achievable plans)

No, we do not teach this green skill

Whilst we instil some skills that support people in their acquisition of dynamic operations and crisis management, this green skill is outside of our current work.

Green skill 7

Historical & cultural understanding

Understanding, respecting and learning from diverse global cultures and our collective history, from creations to crises.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • History (an appreciation of humanity’s collective patterns of behaviour and how we can steer a wiser course)
  • Cultural knowledge (knowledge, both deep and broad, of the world’s many cultures, particularly those cultures whose peoples steward much of the world’s biodiversity)
  • Language (the ability to communicate in other languages – particularly those with declining numbers of speakers – where the knowledge of diverse cultures is stored)

We partially cover this green skill

At AimHi Earth, we remain life-long students of history and global culture, and whilst we weave in a lot of this collective wisdom, we don’t provide the depth of a history or anthropology degree, and certainly not the experience of spending proper, in-person time with diverse cultures and societies.

Green skill 8

Monitoring skills

Understanding and applying the latest tools and frameworks to report on key natural system impacts, from greenhouse gas emissions to the integrity of wild nature.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • Emissions measurement and reporting (assessment of greenhouse gas emissions throughout supply chains, Scopes 1 - 4, and reporting to the likes of the Science Based Targets Initiative)
  • Nature / biodiversity quantification (tracking of the integrity of the natural world, particularly locally and in relation to human actions and operations)
  • Financial risk consideration (synthesising real-world monitoring signals into realistic financial and operational risks, and reporting to the likes of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures)

We partially cover this green skill

We don’t yet offer in-depth training on monitoring and reporting techniques. However, we do provide the necessary enabling background principles and knowledge that underpin this skill.

Green skill 9

Baseline fallback skills

Knowing how to provide the essentials of life both in theory and in practice, for ourselves and our communities, to prepare for potential breakdowns in life-supporting systems.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • Food growing, foraging and preservation (from growing potatoes to recognising mushrooms, and knowing how to make them last through seasons and unpredictable future climates)
  • Shelter construction and water sanitation (creating safe spaces to live with basic needs like water, be it following a sudden or slow motion disaster)
  • Community foundation (forming the basic grounds for cooperation and collaboration with other people)

No, we do not teach this green skill

Whilst we instil some skills that support people in their acquisition of baseline fallback skills, this green skill is outside of our current work.

Green skill 10

Pioneer & entrepreneurial skills

Visionary and interdisciplinary building and doing; centering collaboration, cooperation and collective good.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • Generous ideation and visioning (originating big ideas, and defying the old protectionist model by sharing them; inspiring action and accelerating rapid collaboration)
  • Adventure-ready squad-convening (assembling, aligning and inspiring competent, diversely skilled groups (like the teams of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration))
  • Polymathic implementation (confidence in rapidly learning diverse competencies, to get things done from zero or in small teams)

We partially cover this green skill

We don’t offer training to fully instil entrepreneurial skills - this takes time and a lot of experience. However, we do provide plentiful impetus and guidelines to activate and direct pioneering, entrepreneurial people.

Green skill 11

Interpersonal skills & kindness

Communicating and interacting with compassion and empathy, guided by a spirit of commonality and kindness.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • Intersectional network building (interconnecting and facilitating dialogue between diverse stakeholders spanning geographies, cultures, ethnicities and generations)
  • Empathy and compassion (whether engaging in diplomacy, communicating with refugees, negotiating a contract at work or planning a community garden with neighbours, we need the interpersonal skills to ensure fairness - the fairest deal is always the best deal)
  • Psychological awareness (an ability to weed out the psychopaths, megalomaniacs and egotists that increasingly dominate our politics, leadership positions, and celebrities)

We partially cover this green skill

We know that interpersonal skills are learnt over decades; seeded by good parents, and honed by friends, role models and mentors. We offer a small amount of training in interpersonal skills, but we cannot claim to offer more than light training and general guidance here.

Green skill 12

Informational skills

Awareness of the mechanisms and problems underlying the information we receive and digest, and a willingness and ability to scrutinise and organise information for others.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • Information literacy (a willingness to question information - particularly information which flares strong emotions, has been shared by many and has no clear, reputable source - and to check the facts against large numbers of diverse sources)
  • News hygiene (an understanding that news publications are often partisan and trying to win our attention, and coping mechanisms for limiting our exposure to excessively narrow scopes of information, and their likely focus on negative sentiments)
  • Mavenism and information curation (the ability to deeply understand given topics, and the propensity to help others to understand them through the curation of the best available information)

Yes, we instil this green skill

We provide guidance to aid people in developing better informational skills. This is partly achieved through our teaching of core climate and ecological concepts, to strengthen resilience and informed scepticism, and partly through direct training around misinformation.

Green skill 13

Defence skills

Harnessing altruism to establish systems of defence based on trust and mutuality, to avoid violence and build resilience.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • Alliance building and cooperation (the ability to make friends and build relationships quickly, establishing global and local trust, whilst skilfully managing bad-faith actors)
  • Diplomatic storytelling (the ability to animate the mutuality and commonality between all of us, to ensure that our enemy remains adversity rather than one another)
  • Altruistic defence planning (a great civilisation is one in which the wealthiest and the poorest trust the same public transport, education and healthcare – a great defence policy is, likewise, one that’s planned such that everyone willingly supports it)

We partially cover this green skill

We don’t offer training in complex diplomacy or sophisticated defence planning. However, we do provide an introduction to the philosophy and sentiments to plan defence more effectively; altruistically.

Green skill 14

Diverse thinking & non-neurotypicality

Thinking differently and radically about the way the world is organised, culturally and systemically.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • Objectivity and resistance to collective ignorance (the ability to think without the influence of the crowd and spot the illogical engrained normalities in society)
  • Rethinking systems and methodologies (revolutionising old approaches by taking different foundational approaches to understanding them)
  • Contrarian communication (the propensity to speak out when believing that everyone around you might be wrong about something you’re deeply knowledgeable about)

We partially cover this green skill

We instil a little of this green skill, primarily around out-of-the-box thinking and engaging more deeply with diverse thinkers. However, much of this green skill is particularly difficult to teach - it’s often more about elevating those who already have it.

Green skill 15

Artistry & storytelling skills

The ability to conjure and shape compelling and inspiring stories, ideas and artworks, to guide humanity through dreams of what could be.

Subsets of this green skill include:

  • Evocative creation (forming experiences and works that connect with and significantly shift people’s emotions)
  • Polymathic synthesis (the ability to learn about a great number of different fields, to bring together diverse ideas and then distil them into something new)
  • Storytelling (the art of arranging and delivering information in forms that captivate and resonate with many people)

We partially cover this green skill

Whilst we don’t currently offer specific training in particular artforms, our courses and learning experiences do cover some central pillars of effective communication and storytelling.

If you want to nourish green skills in yourself or your organisation, reach out to us – that’s what we do!

Further information about these green skills

The most clear summary of green skills that exists at the time of writing is published by UNIDO on the basis of Vona, Marin, Consoli and Popp’s 2015 paper. The key skills listed are engineering and technical skills, science skills, operation management skills and monitoring skills.

Meanwhile, according to Isabel DiVanna, director of business development and partnerships at EngineeringUK, “All skills will need to be green skills”. The U.S. Department of Labor also provides some nascent examples of green jobs.

AimHi Earth’s list of green skills builds and expands upon this best available information, integrating our experience in instilling knowledge that’s changed the direction of executive boards, the kits of football players, the speeches of Olympic medallists, the funding strategy of charities and the output of broadcasters.