So, You Want To Save The World? Start Your Sustainability Career This #EarthDay

23 04 2023

Working in sustainability is easy. Graphic: GETTY

By Solitaire Townsend, Contributor via Forbes • Reposted: April 23, 2023

I’m lucky enough to meet lots of passionate folk who want to change the world. Many of them have already built a career in sustainability – they are Chief Sustainability Officers, ESG experts, social entrepreneurs, D&I advisers, climate geeks and CSR specialists.

They are in demand. According to LinkedIn, ‘Sustainability Manager’ is the second-fastest growing job title across the UK (it was seventh last year). And 1 in 10 job adverts require some green skills – a trend which is growing at 8% per year. Helpful leaders share new sustainability jobs online as the ‘war for ESG talent’ rages on.

Today is a good day to join a booming industry. The question is, how?

The first thing to say is that you don’t have to have fancy qualifications, specific knowledge or tons of experience to start working in sustainability. Solving the world’s problems takes all kinds of people, with all kinds of skills, working in every industry, sector and team.

The only thing you do need is a Solutionist’s mindset. Solutionists are the world’s problem solvers; they are people who believe they absolutely can do something about society’s biggest challenges. They are brilliant, curious, determined types – so much so, that I wrote a book about what makes a Solutionist and how to become one.

What I learned from speaking to hundreds of Solutionists over the years  is that their path is rarely a linear one. Some have known since childhood that they want to make a difference, others realise later in life; some follow traditional career paths, but (spoiler) – most do not.

So, if you’re still figuring out how to bend your career in a sustainable direction, you’re in good company. Here are just three of the many different routes available to you as you take the first steps in your sustainability career:

  1. Make change from the inside. You know your current workplace better than any other – you understand the industry, the internal politics, the norms and the need for change. You probably already know the most important decision makers, and what it will take to convince them to do things differently. Harness your knowledge by staying in your current job, and driving sustainability initiatives from the inside. This is called intrapreneurship, and it’s a powerful way to get sustainability issues on the agenda.
  2. Do sustainability on the side. Even if your main job isn’t sustainability focused, that doesn’t stop you taking on side gigs and community roles that mean something to you. Your skills and experience can make a huge difference in charities and local activist groups. Look into becoming a charitable/non-profit trustee, where you can be part of positive change while learning what’s involved in high stakes decision making.
  3. Start a sustainable business. This is the path I took. Identify the sustainability gap in your industry, and fill it. If you know the world of food and drink – what product could you launch that would support food sovereignty and environmental justice? If you’re an HR expert – what product or service could you create that makes hiring more fair and equitable?

Whichever route you take, the important thing is to do it now. Don’t wait for the perfect sustainability job description to land in your inbox – it might never happen. Solutionists operate at the very forefront of society’s responses to the world’s biggest challenges, which means traditional job roles often can’t keep up with us.

Still not sure? In my book, I set out prompts to get you going:

  • Sign up for an online course about sustainability.
  • Start a ‘sustainability team’ at work, for those passionate about change.
  • Finish that book/blog post about sustainability you’ve been working on.
  • Build out a business case for your current workplace to pivot into social & environmental solutions.
  • Look for promising sustainability start-ups to invest in.
  • Sketch out a list of who might help/mentor you to become a solutionist.
  • Register for some online events/talks about sustainability.
  • Create a presentation about sustainability to inspire your team/colleagues.
  • Find online communities of sustainability to get some support.

So go experiment, adapt, and forge your unique sustainability path. This #EarthDay is a good day to start.

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