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Climate literacy training for every budget

The sustainability skills training space is as vast and complex as the world of sustainability.

Illustration of a book showing the page opened to a green field.

Image via Shutterstock/Jacob 09

Editor’s note: This is the first article in a series on closing the sustainability skills gap with the resources we have available right now.

I was lucky enough to attend GreenBiz 23 in February. One sentiment I heard over and over again was that many people believe we have the majority of the tools we need to solve the climate crisis, but what most organizations really struggle with is getting enough employees the technical or functionally specific training they need to really scale adoption of these solutions across the entire business. 

That sentiment is consistent with the findings in a report Microsoft published in November titled "Closing the Sustainability Skills Gap: Helping business move from pledges to progress," which provided an in-depth analysis of the many, many climate and sustainability related training needs companies have right now.

This training gap is a huge business problem for a number of reasons. First, it’s a problem for senior business leaders whose companies have made climate pledges their stakeholders actually expect them to make progress on. It’s also a problem because forthcoming regulations in multiple countries related to carbon emissions reporting mean there are legal consequences for not developing sufficient measurement and reporting capabilities. Last, but certainly not least, as Joel Makower pointed out in his recent article on young professionals in sustainability, several studies have shown that motivating and supporting employees in stepping up to these challenges is a key component of success for attracting and retaining millennials and Gen Z employees.    

So, we know we have some training gaps, and we know we’ve got to fill them, but the big question is how.

Several people I spoke with at GreenBiz cited a lack of good training options, but I respectfully disagree. I think the biggest issue is a lack of visibility into what's available, followed closely by the scalability of some solutions given the constraints of cost, employee time available for learning and instructor capacity (at least for the training sessions that involve actual human instructor).

My goal with this article series is to give readers a sense of the resources available right now that can get us started with closing these gaps today. There are options for every budget and level of time and financial commitment.

Most organizations really struggle with getting enough employees the technical or functionally specific training they need to really scale adoption of sustainability across the entire business.

Today’s installment focuses on basic climate literacy training accessible to individual members of the public. These offerings generally provide a high-level overview of climate science, available solutions and accelerators such as policy, and are appropriate for everyone. The beauty of this type of training is you can make it available to every employee in your organization or you can just share it with that business partner who would appreciate learning why you keep asking them for their utility bills. 

Part 2 on "climate literacy" (which we'll publish Wednesday) will continue the discussion around basic climate literacy and provide an overview of solutions designed specifically to help businesses scale employee training and engagement programs. Future articles will focus more on the training needs of the sustainability team and functional business partners. 

A few caveats. The training space is as vast and complex as the world of sustainability is, so I had to put some boundaries on this list. I didn’t include formal degree programs that require enrollment in a university as that topic is already covered pretty well by the folks at Corporate Knights, Princeton Review and others. I also didn’t include resources that required learners to be in person because those solutions simply can’t scale the same way virtual options can. 

There are literally thousands of training options related to sustainability and climate, so I can say with complete confidence that I've missed some. If I've missed your favorite training offering, I enthusiastically invite you to join the conversation on LinkedIn

I plan to write additional articles that will cover more technical training for sustainability teams and business partners, so share your favorites with me on LinkedIn so I can include them in future lists. Thanks in advance for helping bring these resources out into the open so more people can get to work on advancing sustainable business practices. 

Special thanks to Nishant Saun, an MBA student at the University of Pittsburgh’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business’s Center for Sustainable Business, who helped with research for this article. And, without further ado. 

Climate Literacy Courses

Climate Solutions 101 by Project Drawdown

The Project Drawdown team does a fantastic job of setting the stage and connecting the dots between what’s happening, why it’s happening, what levers we have for change, and how we can accelerate that change. 

  • Cost: Free
  • Time to complete: Approximately 1.5 hours spread across six videos
  • Training type: Self-paced, on-demand video
  • Topics covered: Climate change basics; greenhouse gases; reducing sources of emissions; supporting carbon sinks; an equitable transition; 1.5-degree Celsius pathways; solutions categories; change accelerators

Strategies for Positive Environmental Impact on Trailhead by Salesforce

Part of the Create a Sustainable Future learning trail on Trailhead, the Salesforce learning platform, the course teaches the basics of climate change along with an overview of Salesforce’s sustainability strategy and tips for developing your own. 

  • Cost: Free
  • Time to complete: About an hour
  • Training type: A combination of self-paced, on-demand video and reading
  • Topics covered: Understanding climate change impacts; the global policy landscape; how businesses can make a difference; the Salesforce climate action strategy; how to become a climate champion

Climate Action: Solutions for a Changing Planet on SDG Academy

An in-depth overview of current climate science and how climate change solutions are implemented and made successful. The course was developed by leading academics and researchers from organizations including Columbia University’s Earth Institute, the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development.

  • Cost: Free
  • Time to complete: Between 20 and 40 hours; 10 modules that are two to four hours per module
  • Training type: Self-paced, on-demand video
  • Topics covered: The Paris Climate Agreement; net zero; deep decarbonization; renewables; agriculture and land use; carbon pricing; climate justice; the role of businesses and government in decarbonizing the economy; actions for communities and individuals

Every Company’s Guide to Climate Action & Achieving Net Zero by Julia Mariasova on Udemy

A short course that explores the role of the private sector in decarbonization of the economy. The content is focused on what solutions are available to businesses, and the course provides a summary of key concepts such as Scopes 1, 2 and 3, and net zero. 

  • Cost: $24.99, likely less if purchased through the Udemy Business offering
  • Time to complete: 1.5 hours
  • Training type: Self-paced, on-demand video
  • Topics covered: Climate change basics; the role of the private sector in energy transition and decarbonization; climate actions that companies can use to reduce GHG emissions; the definition of net zero; the role of financial services in decarbonization of the economy

Introduction to Climate Change on UnSchool

This offering explores major environmental impacts associated with climate change, from the oceans to the atmosphere. It's a broad-spectrum exploration of current science about human-caused climate change, providing opportunities to develop ideas and approaches to overcome the resulting challenges these changes force us to address.

  • Cost: $25
  • Time to complete: Unspecified
  • Training type: A combination of self-paced, on-demand video and reading
  • Topics covered: Climate change impacts and action; climate mitigation and actions

Exploring Our Responses to Climate Change by Joseph Casola of the University of Colorado Boulder on Coursera

This three-course specialization is designed to build climate literacy and teach learners how to apply it to their households, communities and workplaces. Students can take one, two or all three classes depending on their needs. "What is Climate Change?" is an introduction to the topic; "How Do We Manage Climate Change?" discusses mitigation and adaptation strategies including technologies, programs and policies; and "Planning with Climate Change in Mind" goes into expected regional and sectorial impacts of climate change in the United States. 

  • Cost: Included with paid subscription to Coursera Plus, $59/month or $399/year, likely less if purchased through Coursera for Business
  • Time to complete: Each course is about six hours long
  • Training type: Self-paced, on-demand video
  • Topics covered: "What is Climate Change"; "How Do We Manage Climate Change?"; "Planning with Climate Change in Mind"

Sustainability Essentials for Business from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

This offering helps individuals better understand global sustainability trends and effective business responses and actions. Supporting learning, innovation and leadership, the course helps learners identify areas of personal and professional relevance within their sphere of influence.

  • Cost: $260 per license
  • Time to complete: Four hours
  • Training type: Self-paced, on-demand video
  • Topics covered: Exploring the risks, opportunities and business implications of climate disruption; food security; health, poverty and inequality; business responses to these challenges; stakeholder engagement; how to identify opportunities to take action

Climate bootcamps

No conversation about climate literacy training would be complete without mentioning the growing number of bootcamp-style programs designed to help individuals become more effective climate advocates or pivot into a role that advances sustainability work. 

While the time and effort involved in participating in a bootcamp means these programs aren’t likely to be the right fit for the majority of your employees, this could be a great place to start for strategic business partners or new sustainability team members starting from square one who could use a more in-depth introduction to the space. 

Climate Reality Leadership Corps from The Climate Reality Project

The organization’s original Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training provides participants with the knowledge and tools they need to become climate advocates and leaders. The latest offering, "Power Up Training: From Acts to Action," provides a deep dive on how to leverage the Inflation Reduction Act and other federal programs to support climate action in your home, business and community. 

  • Cost: Free
  • Time to complete: Two days
  • Training type: Fully virtual since COVID began; scheduled live online training sessions paired with on-demand video resources
  • Topics covered: Climate literacy; tools for advocacy and leadership; influencing decision makers; shaping public opinion; mobilizing your community; the relationship between the climate crisis and environmental justice issues

Sustainability Analyst Bootcamp by Voiz Academy

The academy’s flagship bootcamp experience, Sustainability Analyst Bootcamp, is part of a series of climate-focused bootcamps designed for Gen Z learners to help them build careers in climate. The Analyst Bootcamp teaches students to analyze the sustainability of products and business practices.  

  • Cost: $285 for students, $695 for working professionals
  • Time to complete: About six hours a week for eight weeks
  • Training type: Scheduled live online sessions paired with on-demand video resources and workshops
  • Topics covered: Climate, planetary boundaries and business; design choices and sustainability; circular design; corporate ethics and decision-making; the innovation landscape; careers

Climate Change: Learning for Action from

This offering is’s signature experience, part of’s collection of training experiences for climate professionals. The bootcamp provides participants with an understanding of the science, economics, policies and solutions of climate change and connects fellows to a network of 1,000-plus alumni. 

  • Cost: $1,990
  • Time to complete: About six to 10 hours per week for 12 weeks
  • Training type: Scheduled live online training sessions paired with on-demand video resources and assignments
  • Topics covered: The basics of climate science; climate impacts; key solutions areas including energy, food and farming, and carbon removal; adaptation; accelerants of these solutions including economics, finance, corporate climate action and politics

The Climatebase Fellowship from Climatebase

A climate career accelerator for mission-driven professionals, the experience includes a 12-week cohort-based program and membership in the broader fellowship community. The fellowship is an interdisciplinary community-focused educational experience designed to help highly motivated talented professionals accelerate existing careers in climate or transition into the space.

  • Cost: $1,990
  • Time to complete: 6-plus hours a week for 12 weeks
  • Training type: Scheduled live online training sessions paired with on-demand video resources, optional capstone project
  • Topics covered: Applied climate solutions (an industry-oriented approach to climate literacy and fundamentals); energy; nature-based solutions; food and ag; carbon removal; technology and innovation; policy and governance; equity and justice

Join the conversation

I hope this article helped you find at least one new resource to share with fellow employees eager to learn more about climate change and how they can take action. Remember: If I’ve missed one of your favorites or if you want to tell me about a resource that could be relevant to a future article, join the conversation on LinkedIn

And be sure to keep an eye out for the next article, which will provide an overview of solutions designed specifically for scaling employee training and engagement around climate.

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