Future-Proofing the UK Heavy Industries: Five Sustainability Jobs for a Just Transition

24 February 2023 by Canace Wong
blog author

​The UK’s heavy industries are renowned for playing a vital role in the country's economy, but they also create negative environmental impacts through pollution, carbon emissions and waste. As the global community works to address the urgent challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, it is vital that our industries prioritise the implementation of sustainable practices and innovative technologies, embedding them throughout all operations.

Fortunately, the transition to sustainability in the heavy industries, such as manufacturing, mining and steel making, can also create new job opportunities and drive economic growth. Here are five sustainability jobs that the UK heavy industries should consider investing in as part of a just transition:

  1. Renewable energy procurement manager: Working with heavy machinery results in major energy consumption, and the transition to renewable energy sources will require skilled professionals to procure renewable energy cost-effectively. Industrial processes generate more emissions than all other sectors and are responsible for a third of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Transitioning a business to renewable energy to lessen the impact requires a professional who will not only scrutinise current energy consumption and take a holistic approach but also effect change by sourcing the right renewable energy supply, such as wind or solar, that is more bespoke for the business. Not only will a company benefit from being more sustainable, through a more robust renewable energy strategy, but they are likely to be more resilient towards fluctuations in energy pricing too.

  2. Waste management specialist/circular economy specialist: The heavy industries produce a significant amount of waste, and finding ways to minimize, reuse, and recycle this waste can not only reduce environmental impacts, but also increase cost effectiveness in operations. Waste management specialists ensure businesses operate in more circular ways by transforming waste into resources and preventing precious materials from being lost to landfill.

  3. Sustainable supply chain manager: The heavy industries rely on a complex network of suppliers to provide the raw materials and components needed for their operations. Sustainable supply chain managers help these industries identify and work with suppliers who adopt sustainable practices, as well as setting the ambition of the business to drive sustainable principles up and down the supply chain.

  4. Just transition manager: Decarbonising the economy could offer the UK a wealth of exciting opportunities, however, many well-paid and highly skilled jobs will also be jeopardised in the decarbonisation journey, a move which could devastate many livelihoods. Major employers are adopting strategies to ensure a just transition, from offering at-risk employees retraining opportunities to launching internal mobility programmes for newly created roles. A just transition/ workforce transition manager will use their expertise to deeply understand the opportunities and landscape for workers and business alike.

  5. Sustainability commercial/ marketing manager: Sustainability is becoming more integral to a company’s commercial strategy, in line with stakeholder demands. Every sector is pushing forward their sustainability agendas, and companies increasingly expect their suppliers and partners to help them meet their own sustainability goals. By devising a strategy to engage commercial partners on sustainability issues affecting its business, a company can make sure they are responding to market demands and opportunities around sustainability. According to the Sustainable Procurement Barometer 2021 survey, conducted by EcoVadis and the Value Chain Innovation Initiative at Stanford Graduate School of Business, 159 procurement executives identified “delivering on sustainability goals and commitments” as a top three priority. A sustainability commercial manager is skilled in helping their companies adopt sustainability as a commercial differentiator. They engage with customers, understand their sustainability priorities, and help refine product/ services offerings at the business.

By investing in these and other sustainability jobs, our high impact but essential UK heavy industries can play a critical role in building a more sustainable future for all.

While Acre sees a surge of new skills flooding the market during our extensive global searches, its Frameworks division can offer talent development solutions in the form of in-depth support and expertise to upskill a diverse range of professionals and bridge any gaps to ensure sustainability and health & safety professionals are effective as we move towards a low carbon economy.

Canace joined Acre as a consultant for its sustainable business team in 2022, working with leading manufacturing and mining businesses/multi stakeholder groups on their permanent recruitment and executive search briefs. Prior to Acre, Canace worked as a consultant at a specialist executive search firm focusing on corporate communications and public relations. She began her career as a corporate communications practitioner and holds a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science. As a Hong Kong native, she is a fluent Cantonese/ Mandarin speaker.