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Sustainability podcast delves into OU report on ESG

Dr Victoria Hands, Director of Sustainability at The Open University, discusses the skills gap in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) within UK businesses on the latest Sustainability Uncovered podcast.

The OU surveyed more than 500 businesses in 2023, and published findings that revealed four in five UK businesses face an ESG skills gaps. While 75% engage in ESG discussions, only 8% have a fully developed strategy. The survey identified financial constraints, lack of essential ESG skills, and perceived complexity as major obstacles.

In a new interview with Sarah George, Deputy Editor at Edie and host of their Sustainability Uncovered podcast, Dr Hands explains the urgency for strategic ESG action and how important it is for business to invest in upskilling of key staff:


We were really interested in finding out why. It’s a great start to be having the conversations, but why don’t we have the strategies? So what we would like to recommend is that it would be very valuable for organisations of all sizes to assess their skills needs, their upskilling requirements and to invest.

Dr Victoria Hands
Director of Sustainability at the Open University

Dr Hands also highlighted the need to communicate how ESG is relevant to all roles, and the need for a comprehensive approach to upskilling, she added:

“One of the key things is to really value the existing expertise within the organisation, and to enable those managers and senior execs and even board members to understand the critical aspects of ESG and to then apply them to their individual roles by pulling in their own experience and expertise.”

Looking ahead, the OU is now focusing on developing a narrative around green skills and embedding sustainability across the curriculum. Dr Hands explained:


We’re part of a cohort of universities who are sharing resources to enable the embedding of sustainability within the curriculum. Our survey showed that missing these essential skills is one of the critical issues that need to be addressed this year. We’re also preparing our climate adaptation plan, which very much focuses on our core business, it also looks at our operational base. The other thing that we’re doing this year, is enhancing our collaborative efforts – we really want to develop courses and activities that support our students, our graduates, our graduate employers, so we’re developing courses that really respond to those specific needs.

Dr Victoria Hands
Director of Sustainability at the Open University

The OU has specifically developed a microcredential course to help organisations upskill for sustainability. The course consists of 100 hours of learning over 10 weeks with the aim to help organisations understand the bigger picture and develop a tailored action plan for sustainability. Watch the course trailer here.

Download the ESG report: Educate, Measure, Speak up: How businesses can get ahead with ESG

Listen to the full Edie Sustainability Podcast below: 

Stream Episode 15: Green skills, sustainable skincare and regenerative wool by edie

Dr Hands interview starts at 20 minutes and 8 seconds

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