Careers in Sustainability
As early as 2009, The New York Times reported that a growing number of students were interested in aiding the environment with courses on sustainability. Today, this trend has continued, with students across the country studying topics like food and farming, green economics, citizen advocacy, earth science, green building, and public health.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in sustainability, these students put their green skills to work by driving practices that are environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. However, in such a diverse and fast-growing field, there are many ways for sustainability professionals to do this. Below, we list some of the most popular ways sustainability experts are using their knowledge to spark local and global change.
Sustainability experts who launch careers with private companies can have a wide range of job titles and tasks. Their roles might include developing and implementing sustainability plans and presenting these plans to other staff members. Additionally, they might speak to concerned citizens in their communities, ensure their organization meets environmental regulations, and find ways to reduce waste and increase efficiency. Regardless of their specific tasks, the need for these types of professionals continues to grow. According to a 2014 survey by McKinsey Global Institute, 43 percent of company executives said they want to align sustainability with their overall business goals, mission, or values.
In general, government careers in sustainability often focus on conducting research, creating policies, and developing green programs that support local or national communities. This could involve working for organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Geological Survey, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
As the world learns more about how poor sustainability practices have damaged the environment, sustainable nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations have stepped up to foster positive change. These organizations conduct research, promote community awareness, strive for conservation, and provide aid to worthy environmental causes. Whether this means teaching local families about sustainable agriculture or encouraging more businesses to use clean energy, these organizations rely on the knowledge and skills of sustainability experts to achieve their goals.
A growing number of colleges are hiring sustainability coordinators, managers, and directors to lead environmental initiatives across campus. This can involve creating campus-wide waste-prevention and energy-efficiency projects, while also encouraging students and staff to get involved. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, which helps its members drive global sustainability initiatives, is proof of how much this sector of the industry is growing. In 2006, this group had only a handful of members. Today, more than 900 campuses support their cause.
Sustainability experts who want to start their own businesses or nonprofits can launch careers as entrepreneurs. In fact, Forbes reports that entrepreneurs around the world are becoming increasingly sustainability-minded, looking toward social problems as a means to find new target markets. At the same time, modern consumers have shown that they are willing to pay more for safe, high-quality products, which is helping these sustainability entrepreneurs bring their visions to life.