EVENTS & INSIGHTS / INSIGHT

6 current trends in sustainability hiring

by Shannon Houde

From recruiters to academics to consultants to businesses, the message is clear: sustainability is growing, it’s professionalizing and it’s becoming embedded in to core business practice. The only way is up!

Core Business

That said, there are some key growth areas that sustainability jobseekers will want to take note of. As the link between commercial performance and sustainability become more closely proven and accepted, sustainability related roles in non ‘sustainability’ functions will increase.

A particular focus is likely to be on innovation, supply chain and marketing as new trends emerge around product development, responsible procurement and ethical trade. Candidates with education and experience in these key functions, coupled with an awareness of sustainability and knowledge of the business risks and opportunities, will be the ones employers seek out. The ability to communicate, build business cases and bring these issues onto everyone’s agenda – especially the Board’s – will be critical to success.

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Energy

In the UK, the new Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme – a mandatory energy assessment scheme – is already driving job creation and opportunities for consultancies. Energy specialists should take note, as this space is expected to grow significantly in 2015. Another key trend is around integrated reporting. The demand for experts who can produce effective compelling and effective sustainability reports isn’t going anywhere. We need to be able to measure and prove impact and to tell the story of all that what we have achieved, where we have fallen short, and where we are heading next. It’s a well-trodden career path that’s worth following.

Influencing

Influencing skills will be as significant as ever for jobseekers in 2015. For non-specialists, core business skills, basic organizational literacy and a commitment to diplomacy when playing the corporate game for sustainable outcomes remain absolutely fundamental. Second on the list of generic skills is the ability to influence. This aspect of influencing and leadership are is showing no signs of disappearing as sustainability seeps into all aspects of business and the ability to drive change by bringing others along with you on the journey becomes more crucial than ever.

Diversity

Another key hiring challenge I’ve been hearing about lately is around the diversity of sustainability staff practitioners themselves. This is interesting, because a mix of genders, races and backgrounds is something that sustainability professionals are frequently promoting in their day-to-day work. However, according to one major sustainability consultancy, the average cross section of people doing this work practitioners does not compare well to the average cross section of society – basically, the profession does not reflect the general population. Typically, those seeking careers in this space are coming out of environmental science degrees and MBA’s in sustainability, but the profession needs people from different academic backgrounds, such as languages, humanities, and social sciences. This, of course, is excellent news for those of you making a career transition from a non-sustainability role.

Professional development

One of the most exciting developments in the sustainability space in 2015 will be the rise of the Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (ICRS) – a new professional body, emerging from the original Corporate Responsibility Group, and representing a real milestone in the evolution of the industry. Launched in July 2014, it now has its 200th member and is helping to map skills and career paths through a competency framework for members, defining the pipeline in terms of education, skills and experience required. This consistency and clarity for professional development will be a huge boost for the entire sector. I’ll be doing a webinar on careers in sustainability for them on 24th March, so keep an eye out for that.

Politics and Policies

Finally, in both the US and the UK, general elections are on the horizon. Parties hoping for reflection are more likely to put ‘ politically safe ’ issues like the health of global and national economies center-stage in the political debate, marginalizing controversial or challenging environmental topics like climate change and biodiversity loss. At the same time, it’ll be interesting to see whether opposition parties will take seize the opportunity to push for politically-edgy bolder environmental and social outcomes – maybe through reference to especially with the the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals in Paris this year . Either way, businesses should grab maximize any opportunity to seek recognition advocate for longer-term sustainability thinking policies, and to push this agenda alongside the call for growth and jobs.

2015 is sure to be an exciting year for all of us, and the opportunities for fresh graduates, career switchers and sustainability pros looking to take the next step up the ladder will only increase. If you’d like some one on one advice on how to improve your chances of climbing the rungs, contact me for some bespoke support.

A huge thank you to Paul Burke of Carnstone, Andy Cartland of Acre Resources, and Eban Goodstein of Bard University’s MBA for contributing their insights into the sustainability jobs marketplace for this article.

This article originally appeared on 2degrees Network.

Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg, via Flickr

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