The ESG talent challenge for energy companies

The industry needs a new message to attract smart young employees: Work here and help save the world.

The Leadership Agenda

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Traditional energy companies are addressing the climate challenge head-on, but our experience suggests they may be falling short in one area: talent. In PwC’s latest Global CEO Survey, energy leaders are the most likely to have set an internal price on carbon, developed a data-driven strategy to reduce emissions and mitigate climate risk, and launched initiatives to reduce emissions. No other sector performed as well in those areas. 

Yet decarbonising and managing the energy transition will require a willingness to upend conventional thinking and incorporate the best ideas from a lot of smart people. Unfortunately, the energy industry (along with power and utilities and other heavy emitters) doesn’t hold the best value proposition for young talent. Many newly minted electrical engineers, marketers and strategists would rather start their career in a clean industry—say, solar—than in trying to clean up a dirty one.

To turn the tide, energy companies need to change that value proposition and improve how they recruit and hire new employees. Three priorities are critical. 

  1. Change the message in recruiting. Energy companies are among the biggest emitters of carbon, but also the biggest investors in renewable energy in many markets. They have deep pockets and the organisational ability to deliver large projects—traditionally oriented around fossil fuels but increasingly focused on renewable energy as well. Those are advantages that most smaller alternative energy firms and start-ups lack—and companies need to get that message out into the world.
  2. Don’t forget about current talent. Upskilling programs need to be in the playbook as well, to boost the capabilities of the existing workforce. Critical skills include marketing, entrepreneurial strategy, digitising processes and developing new products and services around the customer’s perspective. In addition, leaders may need to reshape the culture—keeping the standardised processes required for safe operations but also putting the right conditions in place to foster innovation. 
  3. Consider different organisational structures. Create internal innovation units with the speed and flexibility to move fast and take risks—potentially under a different brand.

The energy industry (along with power companies, utilities and industrial manufacturers) is taking noteworthy steps to reduce its carbon footprint. But it can only succeed if it has the right talent in place.  

See how 4,410 chief executives in 105 countries and territories responded to nine critical questions in PwC’s 2023 Global CEO Survey.

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Jeroen Van Hoof

Jeroen Van Hoof

Global Leader, EU&R and P&U, Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31-88-7921328

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