Globally, communities and corporations alike are re-evaluating priorities and redefining purpose on an individual and collective level. There has been a conscious crossover to a value-addition approach, which goes beyond profits and pay-checks.
Consequently, ESG (environmental, social, and governance) has become the focal point of the lens through which governments, corporates, investors, and individuals are looking at their day-to-day jobs and decision-making.
And this focus on sustainability and aligning business with ESG goals open new and interesting career avenues for the young talent pool.
It is encouraging that millennials and Gen-Z are thinking about sustainability as a career option, however, Anupam Kaura, president and chief human resources officer, CRISIL says building a detailed understanding of the practice that goes beyond the buzzword is essential.
“While environmental conservation is one element of it, sustainability is a larger movement to make business processes self-sufficient and independent in the long term, without causing harm to their allied, complementary systems. It could mean green buildings that are energy efficient in construction and upkeep; a solid, leak-proof vaccine delivery system, or public policy designed to promote equality across socio-economic segments of society,” he says.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Kaura throws light on career opportunities and tips to jumpstart/build a career in sustainability.
What do careers in sustainability entail?
Sustainability has evolved manifold over the past decade or so and the field now offers aspirants a range of opportunities. For example, those with science-related backgrounds can pursue opportunities across environmental engineering workstreams, those with quantitative backgrounds can evaluate climate risk modeling opportunities, etc.
Likewise, sustainability also offers opportunities across corporate strategy and consulting roles for aspirants with management backgrounds. Uniquely, sustainability allows personnel from all backgrounds to specialise in a host of areas including social integration, sustainability reporting, assurance, sustainability-led transformation roles, etc.
In summary, sustainability is an all-encompassing field that offers immense opportunities for aspirants across multiple backgrounds. And this is not just for entry-level professionals - we are seeing an increasing trend of professionals from diverse backgrounds moving laterally to sustainability-related careers.
What does a career in sustainability offer, and what career opportunities are available?
Sustainability offers aspirants a unique opportunity to go deep in their chosen field of interest. For example, those interested can build a career almost entirely in environmental and social disciplines. Likewise, as sustainability becomes more mainstream, aspirants can choose to specialise across industries, especially the hard-to-abate sectors including chemicals, metals and mining, cement, energy, etc.
Careers in sustainability can offer a very good mix between field and desk opportunities, while ensuring high-quality ongoing interactions with multiple sustainability stakeholders across seniority levels. Careers in sustainability can also offer rewarding experiences in activities including training, capacity building, thought leadership, etc.
It is important to note that jobs of the future will not only be steeped in technology, but also sustainability. Given the tilt toward fostering a circular economy – with the convergence of information, social impact, economics, and emerging technology – an understanding of sustainability is an essential requisite for a career in any conceivable field today – be it banking, manufacturing, retail, IT, FMCG, logistics, or tourism and hospitality.
A career in sustainability can be satisfying and rewarding. It also demands critical, holistic attention to detail, risk assessment, and impact analysis of every decision.
Tips to jumpstart a career in sustainability
Aspirants can explore various specialised courses in sustainability – increasingly, a greater number of universities both within and outside of India offer full-time courses in this field.
Those looking to wade their way into the field can also leverage online certifications, such as those offered by GARP and CFA Institute. Various online courses can help accelerate learning on specific topics of interest.
That said, to maximise the potential of a career in sustainability, in addition to the domain, aspirants also need to focus on enhancing their technology skills, communication abilities, and influencing capabilities.
To stand a good chance for a career in sustainability, individuals can work on improving their understanding of the industry/sector that they want to contribute to as part of a career in sustainability.
Tracing the evolution of the sector, knowing the regulatory changes, understanding how financial institutions and other ecosystem participants, including investors are viewing the sector, and their expectations of companies to take progressive steps as part of ESG goals would be essential in building a career in sustainability.
Additionally, good research and writing skills, ability to engage with multiple stakeholders and influence agenda, and exercising strong analytical skills to offer pre-emptive solutions are must-haves.
It is imperative that anyone considering a career in this field is up to date on current trends, has a keen sense of data analytics, and can predict what could happen next. Most importantly, you need to practice what you preach and aspire to a more sustainable way of living.
Challenges that might crop up while pursuing a career in the field
Aspirants may take some time to find their sweet spot within sustainability – the field is rapidly expanding and those new to the profession may dabble across a few workstreams before finding their true calling.
Also, sustainability has expanded at a very rapid pace over the past few years – aspirants must be ready to absorb new information and developments at a very rapid pace – this, at times, can be overwhelming for many. Individuals may also need to encounter situations where data is either unstructured or not readily available, and thus may require specific effort to piece together.
Aspirants must also cope with the task to integrate sustainability with technology. This requires a broad mindset and willingness to go beyond one’s own comfort zone.