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Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Patrick O’Donovan TD, opened the graduation ceremony of 80 graduates from the Skillnet Climate Ready Academy at the 2024 Sustainability Practitioners Conference at the Kemmy Business School in the University of Limerick (UL). The students were awarded a level 7 Certificate in the Fundamentals of Sustainable Resource Management accredited by the University of Limerick after completing the first ever industry led stackable micro-credentials in this area.

Minister O’ Donovan said, “This marks a major milestone in the evolution of the Skillnet Climate Ready Academy, which was established in 2021 by Skillnet Ireland to help Irish businesses prepare for the transition to a sustainable economy.  Business decision makers throughout the country have a responsibility to lead on making a change on sustainability practices for the betterment of the planet. I am pleased to be able to congratulate these 80 successful graduates on their achievement today and wish them every success with their future guardianship of climate action through the skills they have learned through this programme.”

The Graduation Ceremony was part of the 2024 Sustainability Practitioners Conference, hosted by 2050 Partners, a strategic management company that specializes in Sustainability and is the delivery partner of Skillnet Ireland for the Skillnet Climate Ready Academy. The Conference was attended by over 200 delegates who were there to gain insights and share experiences about corporate sustainability in Ireland.

Paul Healy, CEO, Skillnet Ireland, said: "A recent report from Skillnet Climate Ready Academy demonstrated that while Irish business leaders are placing more focus on becoming sustainable, they need clarity on the skills and type of leadership required to execute a sustainability strategy. It is with the type of upskilling supported on programmes like the one we are celebrating with the graduates here today, that business can respond in an agile and authentic way to both the real-world and the regulatory needs necessary to traverse the green transition and thrive as a business in the 21st century.”

Maria Kelly, Director, Skillnet Climate Ready Academy said, “I would like to thank Minister O’Donovan for joining us today as our students graduate to achieve one of the first accreditations in Sustainability of this kind. It is imperative that Irish business can and do access the tools they need to make sure their companies have the employees with the right skills needed to lead sustainability initiatives. With the requirements of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive businesses must be able to strategize for essential transformation. At Skillnet Climate Ready Academy we are proud to offer businesses with the opportunities to participate in industry-led programmes that support them to become more sustainable for the future of the planet.”

The ceremony was the key highlight of a Sustainability Practitioners Conference that brought together over 200 practitioners from diverse industry sectors to address the pressing issues of climate change and sustainable business practices. The 20FIFTY Partners Sustainability Practitioners’ Conference, held in association with the Skillnet Climate Ready Academy at the Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick featured keynote addresses and presentations from prominent figures including Harold Pauwels from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Paul Healy, CEO Skillnet Ireland, and representatives from the IDA, Bord na Móna, Business Stream, the DAA, and Uisce Éireann. These leaders shared insights on the latest trends, challenges, and solutions in sustainability reporting and transformation.

Harold Pauwels, Director of Standards at Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), who shared his insights at the Conference said, "The role of the evolving Environmental Disclosure Landscape in supporting sustainable transformation is critical.  Every organisation has a broad range of stakeholders who need clear, standardized, and structured information to evaluate the economic, environmental, and social performance. This enables us to obtain a clear picture of the human and ecological impact of business and make informed decisions about sustainable development." Skillnet Climate Ready Academy offer businesses opportunities to participate in industry-led programmes that support them to become more sustainable for the future of the planet, and ready to meet the requirements of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive.

Key discussions at the conference focused on the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) requirements, the skills and leadership needed for sustainability initiatives, and the strategic planning essential for business transformation. Insights gathered from industry practice including case studies from Bord na Mona and APB Food Group were shared that can provide the potential to inform policy and standard setting across Europe. The conference also emphasized the role of transparent communication in building trust and fostering a culture of sustainability within organizations while avoiding the pitfalls of communicating green.

Another notable highlight of the Conference was the launch of the new Origin Green Academy Pathway to Biodiversity Planning Programme in collaboration with Bord Bia. This initiative aims to enhance biodiversity planning and sustainability practices among businesses.

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