If protecting the environment and creating sustainable solutions appeals to you, there are ways to turn these interests into a career in environmental sustainability. Since sustainability is a broad field and finding a career within it can be a daunting task, it’s better to know what some of your options are — of course, there are many more areas in which you can make a difference, it’s all about finding what works for you.
1. Become a Sustainability Consultant
Go straight to the heart of environmental issues and build your career based on sustainability as your major course of study. Also, remember that life is one of the best teachers. Whether you choose to get a degree focused on sustainability or seek life experiences to increase your understanding of environmental solutions, you can build a career as a professional sustainability consultant. The field is vast and filled with opportunities.
It’s interesting to note that you can come from many different backgrounds and end up working in this area. Although you can transfer your life experience skills to advising others as a consultant, you may need additional credentials. Consider taking a course or completing a certification to demonstrate your knowledge and competency to others who don’t understand sustainability.
Possible job titles for this type of position would be Sustainability Consultant, Sustainable Business Facilitator, Sustainable Product Manager or Supply Chain Consultant. Other job titles include Sustainability Science Adviser, Chief Sustainability Officer or Corporate Environmental Responsibility Manager.
2. Become a Marketer Who Focuses on Telling the Sustainability Story
When businesses create products that are financially viable and eco-responsible, they need to tell the story of their environmental sustainability value. Eco-conscientious consumers might understand this value immediately and will become interested in a product that is demonstrably more sustainable than others on the market.
However, consumers who don’t consider the environmental impact of their buying choices are still in the majority. This is why we still have pollution. Most consumers need to be convinced that their choices and lifestyles deeply affect the environment.
Even eco-conscientious consumers must pour through all of the existing product options and businesses services to find sustainable products. Then they must determine which ones work best for them.
Sustainability marketing, communication, and information management will continue to be a growing need for all consumers. Consequently, businesses will continue to invest in this type of storytelling.
Marketing communications can be about sustainability science, its value proposition, a company’s environmental successes or the failures of non-sustainable products. This type of information will help to maintain the success of the sustainability industry.
With the advent of green-washing and the inevitable consumer validation that will prove green-washing profit and loss, companies will require consultants. These consultants will need to know how to help companies accurately achieve sustainability results and tell their sustainability stories honestly.
Possible career opportunities in this field include professionals in marketing, public relations, communications, journalism, audio-video production, and advertising. Other options include information management, graphic design, apps development and data science.
3. Become an Environmental Sustainability Scientist
Less story-telling and more science! At its core, environmental sustainability is about solving environmental problems in a way that can be adapted and continued. Identifying problems, recording observations and analyzing information to make original contributions to the body of knowledge are at the core of science.
Maybe you are interested in making your own original contribution by way of a new methodology, technique, product, theory or product breakthrough. You may also be excited by applying existing contributions to science in an original way. Becoming a scientist who specializes in sustainability is another career opportunity with vast possibilities.
Our environment will never stop creating events to observe. We need to decipher those events even as the world we live in continues to accumulate information through the new technologies we create.
The skills you develop by studying science include consistent and reproducible data recording and information analysis. Other skills include the detection of trends, concepts and differences and the development of practical, productive critical thinking.
These skills can easily transfer to sustainable business. Companies require these skills for the following areas:
- Market research
- Business research and development
- Product development and validation
- Clean technology and waste management development
In this field, you can use your skills to reduce pollution. Also, your scientific skills can evaluate the success or failure of both sustainable and non-sustainable actions.
To prepare for this field, you can study natural sciences, sustainability science, environmental science, ecology, environmental management, engineering, and technology. Ideally, you might want to specialize in renewable energy or waste management as those fields have witnessed a great development in recent years.
4. Spread the Sustainability Story as a Performing Artist
Environmental problems can be complex. The concept of developing sustainable solutions often hides beneath the existing systems, products, and technologies that created our environmental problems. This hiding is a result of many years of downplaying the value of environmental quality and prioritizing convenience at the cost of environmental pollution.
To bring to light sustainable solutions, art and music can bring heightened visibility to environmental issues in a simplified and creative way. Visualizing problems and solutions is important to keep environmental solutions at the forefront of our thoughts and actions. It’s definitely an unusual career path, but it’s certainly one to consider for the artistically inclined.
5. Create a Green Career within Your Current Company
For businesses that haven’t set up a formal sustainability staff position or department, the creation of green employee teams or committees is a typical route to sustainability. Businesses can benefit by building teams with multiple skills and different work responsibilities. That way, sustainable and greener actions spread more widely throughout a company. This is where you can make a great difference, especially locally.
For example, if all corporate departments include a member of a green committee, there are two benefits: First, those people become agents for tracking sustainable changes in a way that relates to their work responsibilities. Second, they also can make recommendations to the green committee about what would work best among their immediate co-workers.
This type of exchange can result in a more deeply rooted corporate sustainability ethic. It also extends the impact of the green team members and yields quicker environmental wins. Committee members also have the potential to develop more creative projects to maintain employees’ enthusiasm and a focus on how the benefits of environmental sustainability shape companies and their corporate social responsibility.
By seeking green certifications or hiring external consultants to assist in bridging expertise gaps, green teams can test their successes and further validate their efforts. This work is valuable for sustaining eco-conscientious consumers’ attention and maintaining the environmental resources on which a company depends. Green employee teams are also best suited to inform the development of job descriptions for new sustainability-focused hires or add sustainability job functions to existing job descriptions.
Whether or not companies choose to seek green certification or institutionalize sustainability, the most important consideration is that they find a way to remain committed to sustainability actions over time. In doing so, they will better understand the direct benefit to people, our planet, and their company’s profit.
By seeking a career involving sustainability, you can be a part of that commitment. As environmental problems remain unsolved or worsen, the world needs more of us on a sustainable career path.
This is an article by Dr. Ariana Marshal, a faculty member with the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, American Public University. She is the Director for the Caribbean Sustainability Collective and focuses on culturally relevant sustainability and climate change adaptation. Ariana completed her doctorate in environmental science at FAMU.