When extreme weather occurs, it hits vulnerable populations hardest. In today’s global climate of stronger and more frequent storms, heatwaves, droughts and floods, how can we create a more positive environmental and social impact? We have a responsibility to apply our technological expertise, resources and ecosystem to help the world become more resilient to these environmental challenges.
We need a three-pronged approach to long-term sustainability: preparing the workforce with the skills needed for a greener future; forge cross-sector strategic partnerships; and equip purpose-driven individuals and organizations with the appropriate tools and technologies to accelerate action.
Equipping the current and future workforce with green skills
According to a new Morning Consult study commissioned by IBM, 71% of surveyed business leaders expect their company to emphasize sustainability skills criteria when hiring over the next two years, and 92% of them plan to invest in sustainability training over the next year. There is already a skills gap in technology and sustainability, and these results show it continues to widen.
But when it comes to green and technology skills training and credentials, there simply aren’t many options. IBM already has a strong track record of providing free skills resources to underrepresented communities in the technology sector, most recently with a commitment to train 2 million learners in AI. So, to help prepare tomorrow’s experts with the green and technological skills they need, we offer free training on IBM SkillsBuild.
Our initial program offerings will include three courses: Foundations of Sustainability and Technology, Data Analytics for Sustainability, and Business Thinking for Sustainability. Through these foundational courses, learners will explore topics such as ecology, biodiversity and social impact to help them develop a comprehensive understanding of sustainability.
Lessons will include real-world case studies and opportunities to learn how AI can help businesses achieve their sustainability goals and mitigate climate risks. The courses also provide lessons on data analysis contextualized around sustainability use cases. We will also add more advanced courses that will delve deeper into how data analysis and visualization skills can be applied to practical sustainability use cases, such as examining energy consumption in a community .
These courses are accessible to high school students, university students and professors, as well as adult learners around the world. Learners are free to take as many courses as they wish and study at their own pace. After successfully completing some of these courses, learners receive a credential recognized by employers.
IBM SkillsBuild has a global reach and has already provided many learners with the inspiration and resources they need to pursue careers in technology. For example, in Nigeria, Clinton Chidubem Amam found a job as a graphic designer after taking IBM SkillsBuild courses, and her work was exhibited at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year. Meanwhile, Oscar Ramirez, who came to the United States as a child from Mexico, was able to study everything from AI to cybersecurity and project management, while completing his degree in applied mathematics and in computational mathematics at San Jose State University.
Bringing together sustainable development experts in strategic partnerships
Whether it’s closing the green skills gap or tackling environmental challenges, you can’t do it alone. Addressing big challenges requires collaboration and strategic partnership with experts who intimately understand the nuances of different fields.
This is why IBM prime pro bono social impact program, the IBM Sustainable Development Accelerator, selects innovative organizations focused on solutions that are worth scaling. In this program, various cross-industry experts in areas such as sustainable agriculture and renewable energy come together, both inside and outside of IBM. Use a human-centered approach with IBM Garageartificial intelligence, data advances, cloud and other technologies, these teams collaborate on projects aimed at helping vulnerable populations become more resilient to climate change.
Five organizations are now joining this initiative on the path to drinking water and sanitation for all (UN SDG6):
The University of Sharjah will build a model and application to monitor and predict water access conditions in the Middle East and North Africa to support communities in arid and semi-arid regions with limited internal renewable freshwater resources.
The University of Chicago Delhi Trust will aggregate India’s water quality information, build and deploy tools designed to democratize access to water quality information, and help improve water resource management for key government organizations and non-profit.
University of Illinois will develop a geospatial AI base model to help predict rainfall and flooding in springs in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States.
IGUÁ Institute will create a cloud-based platform for planning sanitation infrastructure in Brazil alongside utility providers and local governments.
Water Company will design a self-administered water quality testing system for Aboriginal communities in Western Australia.
We are excited to partner with organizations that deeply understand the water and sanitation challenges communities face. IBM has committed to supporting our sustainability accelerator projects, including our sustainable agriculture and clean energy cohorts, with $30 million in services through 2025.
Supporting a just transition for all
To build a more sustainable world, we must equip communities with the skills, tools and support they need to adapt resiliently to environmental risks. By providing access to IBM’s technology and know-how, we can empower communities most vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather and climate change. And by democratizing access to sustainability education through IBM SkillsBuild, we are helping the next generation of experts realize their passion for applying cutting-edge technologies to preserve and protect the environment. These efforts, along with our strategic partnerships, will lead us all toward a more sustainable future.
Vice President and Chief Impact Officer, IBM Corporate Social Responsibility