Climate17 are clean energy and sustainability specialists. They have been recruiting in these sectors for over 14 years, helping purpose-driven organisations find the best talent. Over the years, they have spoken to a lot of young and talented Sustainability graduates and understand how tricky it can be – there is no clear roadmap for a career in Sustainability, and that makes it tough to know where to start.
Seems daunting, right? It doesn’t have to be. We spoke to one of company Directors, David Blake, and Principal Consultant David Ward, for their top tips on kick-starting your career in Sustainability.
What skills and experience are currently in demand?
Corporate Sustainability professionals are hugely sought after at the moment, and so building up experience with carbon offsetting, carbon footprinting and Greenhouse Gas Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions will serve you well. Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) is also experiencing a tremendous period of growth.
What drives you?
But just as importantly, ask yourself – where does your passion lie? “Have a clear idea about what it is specifically you want to do within the space,” says David Blake. “Whether that's implementing ISO14001 from an environmental management perspective, helping organisations reduce their carbon footprint from a sustainability strategy perspective – these are all different niches within what is a very broad sector, and there's many more niches to find and decide for yourself, which direction you want to go for.”
Plan out your journey into Sustainability – and be patient with it
So you’ve identified your niche – what next? “Start to work backwards from there, identify the steps you need to take as an individual to get there,” recommends David Blake. “Because there will be steps, whether it's educational steps or the jobs you may have to take in order to end up with a job you want. You can’t just jump to the end result – there has to be steps along the way, whatever that may be, so be prepared to be patient. Look into it, plan and research it, and the rest will start to fall into place.”
Building up work experience
David Blake says, “There's lots of opportunities from a graduate scheme perspective now – depending on the location and the specific skillset that you've got – where you can get into the industry. We do sometimes get graduate roles where we've got a good relationship with clients, but it's not a core thing for us. I tend to advise going to industry bodies – so for example, if you want to work in renewable energy, look at RenewableUK and their website for graduate and internship opportunities – they're really good at that, and they're invested in building the growth of that industry.”
Project experience is key
An academic background in Climate Risk, Environmental, Social Science or Biology will serve you very well in Sustainability. But demonstrating your understanding through project experience is invaluable. For example, if you want to show experience with greenhouse gas emissions and carbon accounting, then project experience illustrating your understanding of the 2050, 2060 or 2080 standards will be helpful. Demonstrating experience of a project you’ve run will give you an edge, showing that you have the capability and skills to meet net-zero or science-based targets, which can be difficult to prove from qualifications alone.
Challenge the reasons ‘why’
“What's going to stand you apart is being first to put your hand up, and be first to challenge the reasons why, to first develop innovative ideas, or at least share those ideas with people who have perhaps a bit more experience, a bit more acumen of ‘how can we make this a reality’?” David Ward recommends. “What's going to set you apart is, your ability to be first – be more demonstrative, more passionate, more project-based, and keep on learning. And then, you know – you should get the rewards.”