Starting Out in Sustainability
With the UK pledging to fight climate change and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, jobs in the ‘green collar’ sector are hotter than ever. What skills do you need for a job in sustainability, and what do you need to know to find the perfect role?
Understanding the lingo
Terminology in the sector can be difficult to understand, with buzzwords like ‘sustainability’ and ‘ESG’ falling in and out of favour.
From a corporate perspective, ‘sustainability’ usually refers to the three pillars: economic, environmental, and social. To achieve sustainability, each of these areas must be considered and plans developed to ensure operations can be maintained over the long term.
A business that degrades the resources it requires to operate, or faces serious reputational risks from the way it treats its workers, is not sustainable. ‘ESG’ refers to ‘environmental, social, and governance’ and is a framework for businesses and investors to assess the sustainability of their operations.
Choosing a path
Sustainability cuts across many aspects of a company’s operations. To find the right career path for you, consider what skills and interests you already have that could be applied within the sector. For example, are you good with words and writing? Do you enjoy research? Could you see yourself making a sales pitch, or educating others? Are you interested in the built environment?
Jobs in HR, procurement, estates management, business development, communications and marketing, education, and many other areas are enhanced by an understanding of ESG. Many companies, even those that don’t specifically brand themselves as environmentally or socially conscious, want to improve their credentials in these areas. If you’re able to combine transferable skills with some sector-specific knowledge, you will be in demand.
Learning the ropes
But how do you gain sector-specific knowledge, if you’re just starting out or looking to change careers?
There are lots of free resources available to learn about sustainability. Conferences and online webinars are two great places to start.
Free webinars are often offered by sustainability think tanks, higher education institutes, or businesses whose core purpose is providing paid services in sustainability, such as data management tools or consulting. Look for reputable organisers who share a list of their clients or funders.
Free conferences and trade shows focused on the environment are often organised by the energy sector or technology providers. Both webinars and conferences offer opportunities to learn, network, and gain insight into the industry. If you’re already working full-time, many resources can be accessed outside of normal business hours.
Deepening your knowledge
Once you’ve been introduced to the basics, you will hopefully have discovered some topics that especially interest you. At this point, it would be smart to research one or two areas in more depth. For example, knowing how to calculate a carbon footprint, understanding legal requirements for sustainability compliance, or interpreting global ESG frameworks and how to apply them are areas that are currently very valuable to employers.
If you’re already working and are interested in an area that could benefit your employer, you should consider asking them to sponsor some in-depth training. If you’re just starting out, you might want to look for apprenticeships or paid internships to gain further skills and knowledge.
Find the latest ESG and Sustainability job opportunities for all levels of experience here.
The sector needs you
Sustainability is a very exciting area to work in! New innovation and legislation are intersecting with the urgency to reduce our environmental impact and improve the way we treat people and the planet. Whether you’re just starting out in your career or transferring years of experience, if you have an interest in doing some good, there will be a perfect role for you.