Dr. Paul Wright, Academician and Global Sustainable Development Programme Lead, at distance-learning HE provider, MLA College, explores how businesses are quick to cut staff training budgets in financially difficult times, but with the demands put on them to make sustainable change, can they really afford to do this?

Evenings are getting darker, leaves are on the ground, jumpers and coats are back to being a wardrobe necessity – winter is certainly on its way. With it comes a wave of uncertainty. Energy prices are at an all time high, interest rates are surging, the cost of living keeps increasing; people are worried and unsure how the winter is going to play out.

Businesses have the same fear, with many having struggled through the pandemic they now have the added pressure of affordability, whilst constantly being told they need to do more to address sustainability issues. It’s little wonder that sometimes things can get too much, budgets are stretched, and cuts need to be made.

In my experience, there are usually two areas where these cuts are made first; marketing and staff training – both of which make little business sense. Ok, I know when times are hard businesses need cashflow to survive, they need to pay their staff, suppliers, business rates, things need paying right away, so areas in which tangible results are not immediate are deemed non-essential.

But let’s take a look at the bigger picture here. On one hand businesses need to make money, on the other they need to save money. Marketing attracts custom by raising awareness of the business, product or service and therefore helps drive income into the business. It may not bring immediate results but marketing is certainly an investment when it comes to reaching more people.

Staff training and development is also a long-term investment, one that will help reduce business costs, improve efficiencies, and retain staff. Let’s take the big sustainability agenda as an example, businesses are aware that they need to do more to tackle sustainability, climate change and the impacts on the planet.

Changes need to be made, in some cases these changes are going to be big and could be very costly. However, real change needs to start with awareness and educating others. Without having a focused sustainability officer, or team, businesses run the risk of making decisions that could have detrimental impacts. Not only to their bottom line but could delay the positive impact on the planet – time which we are told we do not have.

By investing in the right training, businesses could be identifying that they already have employees with a passion for sustainability that would jump at the chance of having an opportunity to really make a difference.

Being able to identify challenges, having the knowledge to implement actionable plans and inspire others to embrace these changes is paramount. It will bridge the gap between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’. Having leadership that fully understand the benefits and challenges of sustainable change within a business will help improve innovation, social responsibility, reputations and ultimately save money and boost your bottom line.

Running a successful business in this climate, excuse the pun, is very challenging indeed, and its through these challenges that people really standout, shine and build character. Having the right people supporting your vision is what can make a huge difference. Change really comes from within, so I challenge businesses to think again when they are considering cutting the staff training budgets and really invest in this area – who knows, the difference it could make to your business, and the planet, could be priceless!

MLA College is a global distance-learning provider delivering undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, part-time to working professionals. Their suite of sustainability programmes, awarded by the University of Plymouth, include; BSc (Hons) / MSc Global Sustainable Development and MSc Sustainability in Practice (Master’s by Research Project). With three start points per year in January, May and September, businesses and individuals no longer need to wait until September to enrol.