The Changing Face of Sustainability Management

UN scientists say “it’s now or never” when it comes to climate change and we have to make “rapid, deep and immediate” cuts to carbon emissions. And that’s before we’ve even got to the problem of plastic pollution and the threats to biodiversity.

But fortunately, companies are increasingly taking environmental issues seriously. So it’s only natural to see sustainability management roles making an appearance on LinkedIn’s Jobs on the Rise list for 2022. After all, it’s never been more important to help businesses reduce their impact on the planet.

What’s the job like? 

You could be working at almost any company, whether you’re getting rid of single use plastics in a professional sports team, helping a start-up make its supply chain greener or managing the impact  of a major mining company. The job involves analysing and predicting a company’s environmental impact, while putting strategies into action to make its operations more sustainable.

So, you’ll need to know a lot about environmental science and be able to understand complex systems, like the way a company’s supply chain affects the ecosystem. You’ll need to keep up to date on legislation and policy, while also understanding the commercial imperatives driving a company. On top of that, you’ll need to be a great negotiator to sell executives on the benefits of environmental solutions.

“Making people think differently is a real challenge,” says Dr Susie Tomson, formerly sustainability manager at the Land Rover BAR sailing team and now a consultant. “Part of it is about reconnecting people to what’s important about nature and how the world works.”

Sustainability consultants BSR say the role is becoming deeply embedded in the strategies of many leading companies as they strive to be more resilient in a changing climate. “No business strategy reaches its potential in a world beset by extreme weather events” and other crises, it suggests.

What qualifications do you need?

Most employers will expect a degree in a relevant subject, such as environmental science or

environment and sustainability, according to the National Careers Service. You can also find degree-level apprenticeships where you’ll learn about sustainability on the job. A level 2 or 3 college course in Understanding Environmental Sustainability may help you prepare for one of these.

What’s the career path like? 

Some organisations may only have a small number of specialised environmental roles, the careers advice service Prospects points out. So you may find more opportunities in larger firms, which may offer a route to senior-level corporate positions.

Ambitious people in the sustainability sector may need to manage a wider brief, embracing other aspects of corporate social responsibility, such as diversity, equality and inclusion.

There are also opportunities to join environmental consultancies, strike out on your own as a consultant, or move into teaching or research, Prospects suggests.

How much can you get paid?

The National Careers Service estimates that people starting out in the job should expect to earn about £22,000, with salaries for more experienced staff rising to about £43,000.

LinkedIn’s current vacancies suggest the range can go higher for senior roles at large organisations, with some jobs being advertised at between £60,000 and £80,000.