Sustainability careers are no longer contained within the environmental sector. Many companies in various industries want to incorporate sustainability into their daily operations, however, they do not know where to start. That is where jobs in corporate social responsibility come into play.
What is Corporate Sustainability?
Against the backdrop of climate change, water crises, pandemics, and environmental risks, businesses must have a corporate sustainability strategy to ensure long-term economic growth while negating environmental impacts. A sustainable business works along with communities, society, and the environment while achieving economic growth.
Corporate sustainability and corporate social responsibility are closely related and often used interchangeably, however corporate social responsibility is a broad term used to describe any business practices that have advanced social or environmental causes.
Many businesses lack the knowledge on how to draft and implement sustainability practices, and this has led to an increased demand for corporate sustainability consultants.
What Does a Corporate Sustainability Career Look Like?
Organizations are looking for sustainability professionals with practical skills that can coordinate and oversee green business practices. Sustainability consultants often take on a role as managers, to manage and report on a business’s carbon footprint. Business sustainability jobs can include jobs in every step of a company’s operational process to reduce waste and improve output and socio-economic conditions.
There are many different corporate sustainability job titles. The role of a corporate sustainability professional can be wide – from reporting on environmental data, educating employees, overseeing management and recycling, to supporting marketing and sales.
Corporate sustainability job titles can include:
- Sustainability Officer,
- Sustainable Procurement Manager,
- Financial Advisor for Responsible Investments,
- Sustainability Communications Expert,
- Corporate Sustainability Manager,
- Climate Change Manager,
- Community Impact Manager,
- Corporate Initiatives Manager,
- Sustainability Strategy and Disclosure Consultant,
- Data Analyst.
How To Find Corporate Sustainability Jobs?
The sustainability industry is still young, and there is not yet one clearly defined path to a career in corporate sustainability. Individuals that are already established as business consultants or engineers can develop their skills to build a sustainability position within their current organization, while other individuals opt for degrees or certifications in the environmental sector.
It is also important to keep in mind that sustainability can be found everywhere. Sustainability does not have to be a specific career, as it is a mindset and a way of managing a company. If you wish to play a part in corporate sustainability, you do not necessarily have to look for a 100% sustainability-focused job. Financial advisors can look at sustainable investments, while procurement officers can source sustainable materials. Architects, engineers, and contractors can seek out sustainable building material suppliers, and office managers can encourage recycling.
Most importantly, people from different backgrounds will be able to fill the role of a sustainability expert at a company. Backgrounds in management, finance, and the economy will benefit consultants as they will understand how business works. Individuals with an environmental or social background will understand the reality of sustainability and the impacts thereof. Corporate sustainability jobs are also available for all career levels – from entry-level to experienced Sustainability Directors.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to find a business sustainability career (whether you are just starting or a qualified expert):
- Develop your skills to work towards your ideal job. You must have a clear idea of the role you want to work in, whether as a manager, analyst, procurement specialist, or Human Resources. You can then take courses or study towards your desired career path.
- Further your studies if you are already an experienced professional in a different field. There are many online courses and certifications available that can be done part-time.
- Get practical experience. Even though the sustainability industry is growing, there are also a lot of job seekers out there, and gaining practical experience will not only give you a leg-up in the industry, but it will also help you know for certain that it is the correct path for you. Experience can be in the form of internships, volunteering, or shadowing an industry expert for a few days.
- Never stop learning. As corporate sustainability is a growing field, there is still a lot to learn. Knowledge does not have to be formal education, and a lot can be learned from newspapers, magazines, and green blogs. Although an advanced degree may help your career, it is still important that you develop and master skills that will further boost your profession.
- Networking is important. Using platforms like LinkedIn helps you connect with like-minded individuals across the world, and can help you land remote work in your desired field. Through online platforms, you can also stay up to date on developments in the sustainability sector, as well as a lookout for any webinars or conferences.
- Find a mentor that is willing to help you find your way. Mentorship plays an important role to help entry-level professionals navigate career challenges. The EDF Climate Corps ® is one organization that helps young professionals connect with mentors and professional networks.
- Look for green job boards. Green job boards are websites where environmental and sustainability job opportunities are posted. Look at this list of the Top Green Job Boards for some quality corporate sustainability job opportunities.
Find Something that Suits You
The truth is, there is such a wide variety of corporate sustainability jobs, that it is important you find a specific area of interest that suits your passions. Not all businesses are currently subscribed to the principles of corporate sustainability, so seek out organizations that have made public commitments to social justice, economic development, and environmental protection.
To make it in the world of corporate sustainability, it is recommended that you simultaneously cultivate specialized knowledge within a certain niche – by figuring out what you are good at – while still developing and maintaining general sustainability knowledge.
It is important to remember that failure is normal and can even be a key part of success if you want to make it in corporate sustainability. With ongoing uncertainty in the world, sustainability professionals will face many challenges in their careers and may not succeed all the time. Sustainability professionals often face constant uphill battles in their careers as they try to implement industry-wide changes, and failure is a part of it.
By developing the correct skills, focusing on your niche, and gaining practical experience, you will not only be ready for a job in corporate sustainability, but you will also be ready to tackle an impactful career that you care about.
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Author: Adri Meyer holds a B.Sc Conservation Ecology from Stellenbosch University and a M.Phil Marine and Environmental Law from the University of Cape Town. She has 2 years working with BirdLife South Africa, a conservation NGO, and 5 years working as an Environmental Assessment Practitioner, conducting Environmental Impact Assessments within the agriculture, housing and waste industry, and acting as an Environmental Control Officer on construction sites. She has 1 year’s experience as a content creator for several sustainability and conservation focused websites. In her free time, she volunteers at the Seabird and Penguin Rehabilitation Center (SAPREC) as well as the local Animal Welfare.