With the recent global focus on sustainability, especially with the latest COP27 in Egypt, there has been an increased demand for meaningful sustainability strategies and improved sustainability reporting from companies. More and more companies are setting science-based targets and Net Zero goals to do their part to save the planet from the crisis. Because there are so many climate pressures to make changes such as the IPCC report pushing for climate action within a decade to keep up with the Paris Agreement, and increased consumer demand for sustainability, there needs to be an increase in the hiring of sustainability professionals in the corporate world.
There are a number of sectors in which to pursue a sustainability career. These include management consulting, reporting, or finance. Roles such as ESG Analyst and Sustainability Consultant require many problem-solving and communication skills as the aim of their roles is to help companies reach its sustainability goals by understanding what needs to be done and explaining that to stakeholders. Because the work is at a company level, the complexity of the goal implementation is often high. The job listing of these roles often requires many years of experience and is plentiful on the job market.
Currently, there seems to be a lack of entry-level roles in the sustainability job market. While companies acknowledge that entry-level roles are a gateway for new talent and to increase the personnel necessary to reach these goals in time, new graduates still find themselves struggling to find a job relevant to their desired career. ESG-related jobs should be abundant. Why is it so difficult for new sustainability graduates to attain entry-level jobs in the sector?
One reason could be that the job doesn’t exist yet due to the nature of how “new” these types of roles are. Therefore, companies may not really know what goes into an entry-level sustainability role. In the past, there would typically be one specialized person in charge of carrying out all ESG work. Now that there is a demand and budget for growing an actual ESG team, it means there is an issue with how to organize it at a team level for a company. The difficulty of searching for an entry-level role could stem from companies not advertising the role and hiring internally. It may be easier to transfer talent already in the company roster that is already skilled in some sort of aspect and already understands the company and then incorporate sustainability training. However, that would make this role non-entry-level as the pool the company is choosing from already has previous experience in the industry.
Could the lack of entry-level roles be because companies just don’t want to train new talent? Not having enough experience is a huge feedback point in the job hiring process that leads to unsuccessful applications. Is it not a gold mine for companies to take on new talent and mold them to their potential, especially if they want to remain ahead of their goals? What is the point of telling the applicant they are on the right track for an entry-level role when they need 2-3 years of sustainability experience? Is it not the point of the entry-level role to give those 2-3 years?
New talent, specifically graduates, have an entirely new outlook on the climate crisis compared to more senior workers as many experienced the crisis all throughout their lives. It isn’t a new problem that arose out of nowhere. It is an ongoing issue that has been introduced to them in their youth and it has only been more detrimental the older they get. Because of this, they have ideas and processes that companies may need to reach their goals more quickly and efficiently. This treasure trove of ideas coupled with expert guidance creates the perfect candidates to create results for these climate initiatives.
While a frustrating experience, an entry-level sustainability role is possible through a number of different avenues. Utilizing your network and actively doing your own sustainability-focused work will aid in resume building and help direct you toward those hidden roles. Networking with people in companies or with roles you want to be in, writing sustainability-focused blog posts, attending seminars and webinars, and subscribing to newsletters are all examples of what recent graduates can do to help their job search.
Green job boards such as EnvironmentalJobsUK and GreenJobs are great places to narrow down job listings to what sustainability graduates are looking for. Compared to LinkedIn or Indeed where the search only narrows down to general sustainability jobs, these green job boards can specify what sector to work in such as solar energy or carbon reduction. A search on a specialized job board for entry-level could help find less competitive roles, thus a better chance at attaining an interview.
While more competitive, the Big Four consulting firms (PwC, Deloitte, EY, and KPMG) have sustainability-focused graduate schemes that are perfect for recent graduates. The advantage of working in one of these is the opportunity to work on very relevant projects as the Big Four are some of the front runners in the fight against climate change. Fellowships are another way to gain sustainability experience and skills. While not exactly professional experience, a fellowship will help give relevant skills that look great to recruiters for entry-level roles. GreenBiz has a list of fellowships both students and recent graduates can apply to strengthen their resumes.