What does a job in sustainability look like?

6 min read | Paul Gosling | Article | Career development Industry insights Job searching | Market trends

job in sustainability

The critical importance of sustainability jobs is clear – the climate crisis poses serious challenges for the environment, individuals, communities, businesses, and the global economy. Organisations are desperate to hire professionals who can oversee corporate sustainability strategies, improve the energy efficiency of buildings, and manage environmental risks and their associated costs. In fact, 90% of sustainability organisations are planning on recruiting in the next 12 months, according to our latest Salary & Recruiting Trends guide.


What exactly is a sustainability job?

There is a distinction between what’s classified as a ‘sustainability job’ and what falls under the wider definition of ‘green jobs’. The green economy is described by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) as one that ‘improves wellbeing and builds social equity while reducing environmental risks and scarcities’. Any job that directly or indirectly supports the green economy and offers job seekers an opportunity for greater environmental and social purpose in their work would classify as a green role. On the other hand, sustainability jobs often require specialist skills in areas such as environmental management, corporate sustainability, energy management, or sustainable buildings.

There’s never been a better time to consider a job in sustainability, with green jobs growing at approximately four times the rate of the overall UK employment market, according to PwC’s Green Job Barometer. Our guide also shows that a third of employers predict an increased need for sustainability specialists and green skills over the next 12 months.

Let’s take a closer look at the different areas of sustainability and explore what a sustainability job could look like:


Sustainability jobs at a glance

  • Corporate sustainability professionals focus on developing strategies that incorporate the environmental, social and governance (ESG) responsibilities of organisations.
  • Environmental management roles focus on assessing and mitigating the negative impact that human activities have on the natural environment.
  • Professionals working in sustainable buildings and energy management ensure that sustainability and energy efficiency are at the heart of the design, construction and operation of buildings.


Jobs in corporate sustainability

Corporate sustainability strategies help to create long-term and sustainable value for organisations, as well as their employees, customers, and the societies in which they operate. Typically, corporate sustainability has three pillars: environmental, social, and governance (ESG). For the environmental pillar, businesses may hire climate change and Net Zero experts to develop plans to reduce their carbon footprint and reach Net Zero emissions. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and social value specialists assist businesses with addressing the social and governance pillars, to ensure they are acting in a profitable and socially responsible manner.

A sustainability manager, one of the most in-demand jobs for 2023, is responsible for overseeing the creation and implementation of a company’s corporate sustainability strategy. Due to the rapid growth of corporate sustainability in recent years, professionals from a range of non-sustainability backgrounds, including supply chain, data analysis, human resources, risk management, and economics are all reskilling into sustainability manager roles, as well as specialist ESG roles.


Jobs in environmental management

Organisations across most sectors are hiring environment managers to help meet evolving legislation and assess both the environmental risks and financial costs associated with issues like contaminated land and waste treatment. These professionals oversee the implementation of successful and compliant environmental management systems for organisations. There’s also a growing demand for technical environmental specialists who can work on development projects in areas like ecology, flood risk management, environmental impact assessment (EIA), and pollution.


Jobs in energy management and sustainable buildings

Experts in the sustainable building space are highly sought-after, as the UK drives its green agenda forward and increases investment in large-scale sustainable construction and green retrofitting projects. Sustainable building consultants and embodied carbon specialists ensure that buildings are designed in the most energy-efficient way, considering the overall carbon impact of a building from its construction to its eventual demolition.

Energy managers feature as one of our top jobs for 2023, with more and more businesses looking to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. Energy managers plan and regulate energy usage within organisations and devise new policies as needed. They take a holistic approach to improving energy efficiency, and the role can often include elements of waste and utility management, sustainable development, and carbon management. The technical nature of sustainable building and energy management roles means that professionals currently working in mechanical or electrical engineering, property management, and building services would be a great fit.


What could a job in sustainability look like for you?

Sustainability jobs can take many forms, from a climate change consultant for a multinational corporation to an energy modelling specialist in a public sector organisation. Expand your perception of what a job in sustainability could look like for you and explore our current opportunities today.


About this author

Paul Gosling, National Director for Sustainability Recruitment, Hays

Paul has been a specialist recruiter in environment and sustainability for over 25 years. He started recruiting into the sector in 1995 after finishing his BSc in Environmental Science and he’s worked with thousands of individuals and hundreds of companies over the past 20-plus years to support their growth and development in this dynamic and critically important sector.

During this time, Paul has built a wealth of knowledge and he’s recognised as a leading expert on overcoming the unique recruitment challenges facing the environment and sustainability sector.

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