‘Do things differently’: SSE boss warns net zero transition must improve diversity and inclusion

The boss of energy giant SSE has this morning warning the success of the net zero transition rests on energy companies’ ability to make diversity and inclusion a key priority as they look to expand their workforces.

Speaking today, Alistair Phillips-Davies stressed that the energy industry needed to ensure its approach to hiring, training, and workforce development enlisted a broad spectrum of people to help deliver the net zero transition.

“Achieving net zero quickly and efficiently means the energy industry must do things differently,” the SSE CEO said. “We need innovative solutions that can only be delivered by a workforce with diverse perspectives, different experiences and new skills.”

Phillips-Davies made the comments as SSE launched its latest inclusion and diversity approach, which sets out how the energy generator and electricity network operator is boosting diversity and enhancing inclusion across its 11,000-strong workforce.

The energy sector has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, and there are concerns that surging demand for clean power over the coming years could compound gender inequality across global labor markets.

A report published by PwC this year warning the three sectors set to dominate the green jobs market over the coming years – utilities, construction, and manufacturing – employing nearly 31 per cent of men in the OECD workforce, but only 11 per cent of women. It argued that as such the net zero transition could increase the employment gap between men and women across OECD countries unless action is taken to improve the gender mix in engineering-focused industries.

Similarly, an update from the POWERful Women initiative in 2021 found that women held just 14 per cent of executive director positions and 24 per cent of board seats in the UK’s energy sector. “An alarming lack of progress on gender diversity in [the UK energy sector’s] senior ranks threaten to derail its transition to net zero,” the report noted, warning that more than two thirds of the 80 companies surveyed had no women in executive director roles at all.

SSE’s diversity and inclusion report reveals the company achieved a 50/50 gender split on its board for the first time in 2021, and sets out an aim to have one in four senior roles held by women by 2035.

But it notes that just 29 per cent of SSE’s employees are women, adding that it is now aiming for the company to have a workforce that is at least one third women by the end of this decade.

SSE said it recognised that it “still has more work to do”, but stressed that it was committed to being transparent around its performance so it could be held accountable on its progress, and to collaborating with its industry peers to drive change.

“Our inclusion and diversity journey to date has not been flawless, and we still have a long way to go,” Phillips-Davies said. “But we have made important progress and we are committed to growing from learnings and feedback. And the challenges we face are by no means unique. Hopefully this report can become an important tool in the discussion and we continue to work with others in the industry , and beyond, to share insights and best practice.”

The news comes in the same week as the latest in a series of high profile reports warning that the net zero transition could be at risk if steps are not taken to tackle looming skills shortages. The report highlighted how many of the jobs at the heart of the green industrial revolution tend to be relatively high skilled and well-paid, and as such there is an urgent need to upskill workers to allow them to fill the growing number of net zero roles . The report also noted that green industries tend to employ fewer people from ethnic minorities compared to the economy as a whole.

Green skills advocates have long argued that in order to tackle looming green skills shortages, businesses and policymakers should take steps to train and recruit more diverse workforces.


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