EVENTS & INSIGHTS / INSIGHT

Sustainability specialists gaining ground

by Shannon Houde

There are signs of a growing specialist market for senior sustainability roles

According to Forbes’ latest “10 jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago” listing, sustainability experts are up there with social media managers and app developers.

Currently, corporate responsibility and business sustainability roles are often filled by internal candidates who already have an understanding of the organisation they are in and make the step sideways or upwards into a sustainability role. In a recent survey by Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, more than half of respondents came to their current position from inside the company.

DON'T MISS OUT
ON MORE FREE TIPS

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign up

“Professionals in corporate responsibility most often have experience in an area related to corporate communication, followed by time spent working in education, government, and/or non-profits,” says Colleen Olphert, BCCCC’s director of membership and member services. The report examines salaries, job satisfaction, professional development and motivations of people working in corporate responsibility roles.

Shannon Houde, founder of Walk of Life Consulting, an international career coaching business focused solely on this sector, agrees that many companies are filling roles from within the business rather than seeking expertise from outside. “Companies figure that sustainability issues can be ‘taught’ but that understanding the business’s products, services and key stakeholders, as well as knowing how to navigate and implement change across the politics of a company, is best done by an ‘insider ’ who knows the landscape and players already,” she says.

Consequently, those holding such posts come from myriad backgrounds. There are senior individuals in place with backgrounds in a huge range of specialist areas, from accountancy and finance, to ethics, corporate governance, environment, engineering, marketing and communications, according to Paul Gosling, managing director, UK and Europe, of recruitment specialist Allen & York. “Often, the most important factor is not the specific qualifications individuals have but their ability to understand and assimilate a range of inter-related and complicated factors, put these into a commercial and business perspective, then communicate this both internally and externally,” he says.

A wide variety of positions exist in corporate responsibility, but not a high number of them, Olphert says. There is no defined career path, unlike for other well-established business functions. “Survey respondents report a scarcity of roles in corporate responsibility and highlight the need to gain experience in other areas of business before moving into these positions,” she explains.

Gosling believes that individuals start with a passion and relevant qualifications, but move first into a more operational role. “They then look for ways to increase their exposure to relevant issues and gradually move into a more focused role.” He says that other common routes are through a consultancy business or a background in the third sector. “In a way that arguably was not the case in days gone by, working in a charity or NGO can provide a strong set of skills, which are then valued by corporate organisations,” he says.

To succeed in this field in the future, a more focused approach may be necessary. Houde says that careers in this sector are becoming more niche. “The more that you can develop specific expertise in one or two areas, such as water, human rights, supply chains, the better off you will be,” she says. “The market is getting less charitable in terms of allowing career changers into it as there are now good numbers of solid candidates already working in this space. We see on average 100 applications per role.”

This article was originally posted on Ethical Corporation.
comments

You may also like...

How ESG issues can become even more relevant in times of market crisis

As a Brit based in Santa Monica, California, Daniel E. Ingram is the chair of investment advisory company Wilshire’s ESG and Diversity Committee. Wilshire, which has more than $72 billion in assets under management and $1 trillion in assets under advisement, recruited Ingram in 2017 as part of an effort to expand its ESG and socially responsible investing capabilities. Previously, Ingram was head of responsible investing for BT Pension Scheme, the United Kingdom’s largest corporate retirement plan. Ingram is also

By Shannon Houde
Finding a Job with Purpose Amid the COVID-19 Crisis

Finding a job in sustainability or social impact wasn’t easy even before COVID-19 blindsided and bludgeoned the global economy. This will only get harder as the world economy continues to struggle, but be confident that it will eventually rebound. In spite of the pandemic, now is still a great time to get yourself familiar with the landscape and begin to position yourself and start to make plan for your career in the impact space. Policymakers are calling for the COVID-19 economic recovery

By Shannon Houde
4 Tips For Building Resilience As A Powerful Career Tool

As Darwin once said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable.” More than your education, your experience or your skill level, studies show that the way in which you respond and adapt to adversity can determine how successful you’ll be. DON’T MISS OUTON MORE FREE TIPS Sign Up For Our Newsletter Sign up Challenging as I know it is, the Coronavirus is the perfect opportunity

By Shannon Houde
Shannon Houde on AI and sustainability jobs

WorkingNation interviewed leaders in sustainability at the GreenBiz 20 Conference in Arizona as part of their #WorkingNationOverheard campaign. Shannon Houde is the founder of Walk of Life Coaching, the first international career development and talent advisory business focused on the sustainability, CSR and impact sectors. In this clip, Shannon talks about artificial intelligence as a job or career game-changer. “Something to be aware of if you’re getting into sustainability and interested in technology,” Shannon tells us, “is definitely AI.” DON’T MISS

By Shannon Houde

NEED SOME SUPPORT?

Book a 30-minute trial session with Shannon

BOOK A TRIAL