sustainability jobs
André Gonçalves

Do you want to work in the area of sustainability and help fight climate change? We’ll help you go over some of the most common roles within this area and share some advice on how you can get there.

Sustainability Jobs: Time To Work And Have An Impact

The way the world and society are today, it’s no wonder people are asking themselves how they can contribute to the changes that need to take place.

A couple of years ago, in a quite viral video interview, Simon Sinek said the youngest generations weren’t just looking for any job, they were looking for a job where they could have an impact. Today, this impact is likely to be strongly tied to the climate crisis or social unequality. In fact, if we take a look at Google Trends, the search for sustainability jobs spiked over the last months. Moreover, Deloitte’s Millenial Trends Survey says this generation, together with Gen Zers and Gen Xers, have climate change on top of their concerns.

The timing is good, too. For instance, in the US, solar employment opportunities are currently growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the national economy. And wind turbine technician is currently the fastest growing profession in the US, according to the Environmental Defense Fund’s Report.

So if you’re looking for a job in sustainability, or if you’re already experienced and you want to switch for a career in sustainability, let’s dig into what your options can be. We’ll cover some of today’s trendiest jobs, summing up information we found on reports, occupational information sites such as ONET and online job platforms, from Indeed jobs to Linkedin or Glassdoor.

Disclaimer: we give general examples of the most common roles and tasks – however, either accuracy is always dependant on variables such as the country, business structure, policies, culture or the current circumstances.

Mind That Sustainability Can Be Found Everywhere

architect sustainability

Apart from the jobs we’re about to mention, it’s crucial to bear in mind that sometimes we don’t have to look for a 100% sustainability focused job. The fact is that sustainability, more than a role or something specific, is a mindset and a way of living. So whatever role you think of, it’s likely you can perform it adopting more sustainable behaviors or practices.

For instance, if an architect has in mind the principles of the circular economy, (s)he’ll design plants that allow buildings to be easily re-purposed. So when someone buys an old lab it can be easily adapted to a co-working space without having to build everything from scratch and use new materials. If you own a grocery store, you can provide reusable tote bags and work only with local farmers, saving CO2 emissions from transportation.

A bike repair shop can do recycling properly and run a campaign to encourage locals to ride bikes more often and contribute to cleaner air. Someone working at a bank can try to raise internal awareness on the importance of sustainable finance and environmental impact investing. The point is: if the mindset is there, it doesn’t matter what your job is – there’s always space to implement more sustainable practices – if only the context allows it too.

#1 Examples Of Sustainability Jobs – Sustainability Marketeer Or Communications Officer

If you’re a hater, not so fast! Let’s start with transparency – the truth is oftentimes this role can be connected to greenwashing. Why? Because some companies that are in the earliest stage of starting their corporate responsibility practices (CSR) often start by showing off some practices and policies they have been developing.

However, when put into perspective, these projects have a very small, often insignificant impact as they tend to be isolated initiatives rather than part of a true sustainability strategy, attached to a materiality analysis with stakeholders and KPIs involved. There’s nothing wrong with it, except when organizations share them looking for external reputation as doing good for people and planet while deep inside they’re concerned not about being or doing good, but about looking good.

In spite of this, being a sustainability marketing officer for a business that’s, in fact, doing good, has a strategy and is embracing important internal transformations, is an important role. It will allow more consumers to choose products or services from a brand that’s trying to be better for the planet and/or for society. Suppliers will also be able to get visibility and perhaps try to work with such brands, investors will be more inclined to make business here and other players within the industry can get to know who they can learn from and perhaps be triggered to start being more sustainable too. So what can be expected from this role?

MAIN TASKS AND RESPONSIBILITIES | Generally include: scheduling and posting on social media; mapping, engaging and meeting different stakeholders to identify opportunities for growth and innovation; developing materials (from digital presentations and reports to banners); attending key events on the area; managing media relations.

BACKGROUND / FORMAL EDUCATION | Generally speaking, a couple of different backgrounds can make a fit with this job. People who studied directly marketing or communications, as well as others who indirectly learned these matters via degrees such as management or economy, might be fit for it. Often times, proven previous experience can be enough even without these kinds of formal training.

CAREER / EXPERIENCE LEVEL | Generally speaking, all career levels can fit this role. From an entry-level to a senior-level, it depends on the criteria of the organization and the type of tasks associated with it.

FIND JOBS as Communications Officer at *Glassdoor or *Linkedin

#2 Examples Of Sustainability Jobs – Sustainability Analyst

Just like business analysts, sustainability analysts do a similar job only they’re more focused on the CSR or sustainability side of operations.

MAIN TASKS AND RESPONSIBILITIES | Generally include: conducting research and benchmarking of key trends and translating best practices into key insights for consultants to take to clients; analyzing internal products/services and improving their footprint by suggesting upgrades to the current methodology/process used by the company; supporting senior colleagues in preparing materials for presentations with clients; translating the company’s sustainability initiatives into engaging consumer stories across the website and social media channels.

CAREER / EXPERIENCE LEVEL | Generally speaking, all career levels can fit this role, from entry-level to mid-level or senior-level. Companies usually specify whether they’re looking for a junior or a senior analyst, detailing it inside the job description. However, on what regards early-careers, people with previous job experience in the area of sustainability or as business analysis might be better positioned to get the job.

BACKGROUND / FORMAL EDUCATION | Generally speaking, a couple of different backgrounds can make a fit with this job. People who studied management, finance or economy have the benefit of understanding how business works. Others from a more environmental/social background like environmental engineering or marine biology are more aware of the reality of sustainability and its hot topics.

FIND JOBS as Sustainability Analyst at *Glassdoor or *Linkedin

#3 Examples Of Sustainability Jobs – Sustainability Consultant

The specifics of what consultants work on depends on their area of expertise. While some might do end to end consultancy (probably once they’re more senior), others can be specialized in impact measurement, CSR reporting, helping companies comply with ISOs or national legislation or in getting green building certifications.

MAIN TASKS AND RESPONSIBILITIES | Generally include some of the following: helping clients improve on their processes or practices by sharing with them the best market practices and designing action plans adapted to the client’s reality; producing summary output matrices (such as materiality analysis) so that the most important issues to be addressed are understood and recommendations for clients.

CAREER / EXPERIENCE LEVEL | Generally speaking, this role is usually for mid/senior-level careers. Workers at early-careers stages usually start as sustainability analysts, backing up sustainability consultants and having a bit less exposure to clients.

BACKGROUND / FORMAL EDUCATION | Generally speaking, a couple of different backgrounds can make a fit with this job. People who studied management, finance or economy have the benefit of understanding how business works. Others from a more environmental/social background like environmental engineering or marine biology are more aware of the reality of sustainability and its hot topics.

FIND JOBS as Sustainability Consultant at *Glassdoor or *Linkedin

#4 Examples Of Sustainability Jobs – Sustainability Specialist/Manager

The sustainability specialist shares common tasks with the sustainability analyst or consultant except (s)he’s working on internal projects of the organization rather than on projects for clients.

MAIN TASKS AND RESPONSIBILITIES | Generally include some of the following: helping to improve organizational processes or practices, inspired on the best market practices; creating or maintaining plans related to sustainability projects; developing sustainability project goals and initiatives; providing technical and administrative support to sustainability programs; tracking sustainability indicators and metrics.

CAREER / EXPERIENCE LEVEL | Generally speaking, this role is usually for mid/senior-level careers as it requires some knowledge of management principles, from strategic planning to resource allocation and human resources and leadership.

BACKGROUND / FORMAL EDUCATION | Generally speaking, a couple of different backgrounds can make a fit with this job. People who studied management, finance or economy have the benefit of understanding how business works. Others from a more environmental/social background like environmental engineering or marine biology are more aware of the reality of sustainability and its hot topics.

FIND JOBS as Sustainability Consultant at *Glassdoor or *Linkedin

#5 Examples Of Sustainability Jobs – Program Officer

Program Officers oversee developments in a specific program and keep sure it is aligned with the organization’s goals and purpose. Their work has a lot in common with project managers.

MAIN TASKS AND RESPONSIBILITIES | Generally include: being the organization’s leading technical expert regarding the programme’s core focus; representing the business in multiple external engagements with different stakeholders; ensuring the project’s timings are respected; securing the program’s overall compliance with regulations and requirements; contributing to the preparation of documents and reports; keeping track of financial budgets.

CAREER / EXPERIENCE LEVEL | Generally speaking, this role is usually for mid/senior-level careers as it often requires a lot of exposure to clients and other interested parties, as well as the ability to manage different tasks and people simultaneously. Moreover, this person is often a reference in the area of the program, making it for suitable for workers with some experience.

BACKGROUND / FORMAL EDUCATION | Generally speaking, a couple of different backgrounds can make a fit with this job. People who studied management, finance or economy have the benefits of understanding how business works. Others, from a more environmental/social background, like environmental engineering or marine biology, are more aware of the reality of sustainability and its hot topics.

FIND JOBS as Program Officer at *Glassdoor or *Linkedin

#6 Examples Of Sustainability Jobs – Chief Sustainability Officer / Sustainability Director

MAIN TASKS AND RESPONSIBILITIES | Generally include leading the creation and implementation of a sustainability or CSR strategy; leading and managing the preparation of sustainability reports; developing key performance metrics and targets on corporate responsibility and monitoring them;

CAREER / EXPERIENCE LEVEL | Generally speaking, this role is usually for senior-level careers.

BACKGROUND / FORMAL EDUCATION | Generally speaking, a couple of different backgrounds can make a fit with this job. People who studied management, finance or economy have the benefits of understanding how business works, as well as other related areas such as HR, finance or marketing. Technical expertise in sustainability areas such as energy, ocean conservation or land restoration is also interested when allied with experience.

FIND JOBS as Sustainability Director at *Glassdoor or *Linkedin

#7 Examples Of Sustainability Jobs – Environmental Engineers

MAIN TASKS AND RESPONSIBILITIES | Generally include designing systems, processes or equipment for control of water, air or soil quality; advising governments or companies on how to clean contaminated sites; collaborating with others like scientists and experts in different areas to address environmental problems.

CAREER / EXPERIENCE LEVEL | Generally speaking, this role can suit all kinds of career levels.

BACKGROUND / FORMAL EDUCATION | Generally speaking, studies in areas such as the environment, biology, energy, ocean conservation or land restoration are good background.

FIND JOBS as Environmental Engineer at *Glassdoor or *Linkedin

#8 Examples Of Sustainability Jobs – The Entrepreneurial World

It’s important to bear in mind too that working in sustainability isn’t necessarily working for a company or someone else. Is there a special gig you enjoy spending your free time on? Any issue in particular, from political abstention to fast fashion or poverty that moves on and where you’d like to make a difference? Why not try to actually work in these areas and start something of your own?

If you enjoy needlework, with not get your friends and family to give you their fabrics so you can create a unique peace to be sold after? If you’re good at surfing, perhaps you can be the element that connects surf schools with interesting environmental projects so they can find partnerships opportunities like getting surf-students to plant trees? If you like games and coding, what about programming a virtual escape game spreading knowledge about social issues such as climate refugees or automation and job market changes?

The point is: if you feel like taking ownership, grabbing something you’re already familiar with and adding a sustainability mindset and goals to it is a way to go too. There are many hubs and accelerating programs with funds and people with expertise to help you get started.

#9 Many Different Jobs On Sustainability – Find Your Specific Area Of Interest

The truth is: there’s a huge variety of jobs in the area of sustainability. So finding what your specific area of interest is can be very helpful.

OCEAN |If you feel like you’d like to work close to or in ocean matters, that’s already a good starting point. From jobs such as marine biologists who can study the oceans, reefs, protected areas or work in aquaculture sites, to coastal engineers who solve issues like erosion, ecological problems or harbor expansions. Oceanographers help better understand the implications of currents, hurricanes or climate change. Ocean researchers study ocean organisms with the goal of contributing to habitat conservation. Optical engineers who work on innovative communication systems used underseas. Even in a totally different area, such as law, you can specialize in ocean conservancy. And the list goes on…

LAND | If it’s the land, soil, agriculture or forest that resonates the most with you, there are plenty of options too. From agricultural and food scientists who look for new food sources and how to produce food in a safer, healthier and more ecological way to food engineers who developer more efficient farm machines or artificial meat. Others analyze and interpret complex automated data from animals and plants. Beekeepers specialize in taking care of bees and in their reproduction – crucial for pollination. Agronomists try to optimize crop quality and output. Soil keepers and permaculture experts try to improve soil quality by analyzing its chemical and physical condition. And it goes on…

SOCIAL | Perhaps your calling is more related to working with/for people? In that case, there are many options to choose from too. From social work researchers who do research, surveys and advocate and support social change by helping to design social improvement policies (in areas such a housing, tax, mobility incentives or supply chain accountability for businesses, among many others) to people actually working in the field, tutoring children or helping to distribute food leftovers. Teachers in schools raising awareness on issues like sustainable development. Lawyers charging lower prices to individuals or communities in need of their services. Entrepreneurs taking a problem from communities in a developing country and trying to help them solve it. And on it goes…

Image credits to engineer on Shutterstock and architect on Shutterstock

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