Creating a sustainable LSE is a key commitment of the 2030 strategy of Sustainable LSE – and earlier in November, LSE was confirmed as the first carbon-neutral university in the UK (read the news article).
But what exactly is a career in sustainability?
Defining a career in sustainability
One way to define a job in sustainability is any role that ‘overlaps environmental, social and economic boundaries, and has either a strong environmental or social justice dimension.’ (EAUC.org.uk)
In practice, this means you don’t have to be working in an area like conservation or green finance to have a job in sustainability – there are a wide range of job roles in a variety of sectors.
A fundraiser working for an environmental charity and a sustainability manager working for a FMCG both have ‘jobs in sustainability’. Jobs in sustainability can have sustainability as their core focus or it may only be a minor aspect of the role. Sustainability may not even come into a role at all, but it may be an important part of the organisation’s mission.
Which sectors can I work in?
‘Sustainability’ roles occur in every sector – private companies, public bodies, universities (did we mention LSE is carbon-neutral?), and so on.
It’s worth mentioning that the times, they are a-changin’ – sustainability knowledge and skills may become increasingly required across organisations, even in roles that don’t currently have such requirements.
What’s changing in sustainability?
As mentioned, the roles and companies offering jobs in sustainability are varied, and evolving in response to changes in political, business and social environments.
Businesses and organisations are beginning to realise the importance of sustainability. They are responding to concerning scientific studies, changes in regulations, mounting public pressure and other business risks – think of all the supply chain disruptions caused by Covid-19 or the Suez Canal blockage.
The number of people working in sustainability is increasing as existing businesses employ people specifically to focus on sustainability and identify necessary changes to minimise sustainability risks and harness any opportunities. Further, a growing number of ‘normal’ roles are now taking responsibility for monitoring, reporting and managing factors within the sustainability agenda as part of their regular duties. So, don’t be surprised to see sustainability-related tasks appearing in more job descriptions in the near future!
For insight into the current perspective, you can browse Sustainable LSE’s selection of online profiles by alumni now working in sustainability
Case study: The rise of B-Corps
A useful example of how the private sector is becoming more sustainable, and how there are increasing opportunities for careers in sustainability, is found in the rise of Certified B Corporations or ‘B Corps’.
B Corps are ‘businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy’.
The B Corp Certification is conferred by B Lab, an NGO. To be granted and to maintain certification, companies must achieve a minimum score from an assessment of environmental and social performance. Further, companies are required to integrate B Corp commitments into their company legal documents.
Well-known international companies such as a Patagonia and Ben and Jerry’s have been certified since 2012. The UK B Corp chapter opened only recently in 2017. UK B Corps include a diverse range of businesses such as the Body Shop (a cosmetics and skin care company), Mishcon de Reya (a law firm), and Coutts (a private bank).
The rise of the B Corp shows how an increasing number of businesses, both in the UK and globally, are taking sustainability seriously.
In the second week of the ‘Careers in sustainability’ programme, we will host a panel of LSE alumni working in B Corps to hear what it’s like to be part of organisations where positive social and environmental impact are considered just as important as profit.
So, what next?
If you’re considering a career in sustainability – whatever the sector – we fully recommend you check out our ‘Careers in sustainability’ programme pages and check out what’s on.
You can also book an appointment with one of our careers consultants to discuss your interests, explore your options and get support with planning your next steps.
You might also like to talk to the LSE Volunteer Centre about volunteering opportunities in sustainability.