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How To Build A Sustainable Career

26 November 2021

How To Build A Sustainable Career

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On the 25th November 2021, InvestIN hosted Going for Green, a webinar for teachers who want to help their students forge a sustainable future. The event was led by Niamh Murphy, Senior Environment and Sustainability Consultant at Arcadis, who delivered key information on the importance of sustainability and advice on how students can enter the field. 

Read on to learn about how your students can start preparing for a future in sustainability. 

It’s no secret that young people are passionate about the environment.

An impressive 76% of Generation Z think that addressing the climate crisis is a top concern. With children now teaching their parents about the benefits of recycling and informing their families about the dangers of global warming, it’s no wonder 57% of parents think their children know more about sustainability than they do.

But how to transform this passion into a tangible future career? 

There are a number of ways educators can help. Read on to discover how.

Think Green Now

The main tenet of sustainability is recognising that the environment is not an inexhaustible resource. If we encourage students now to assess their environmental impact and educate them on the ways they can work sustainably, we can ensure that the next generation of leaders are equipped to handle the climate crisis.   

 

What Does Sustainability Mean to You? 

 

Encourage your students to think about the world we live in and the actions they can take now to make the world a greener, healthier place. 

The 6 Rs of Sustainability are a great place to start. Use them to get your students thinking about the way they  use everyday products, how they can reduce their environmental impact and how they can put these ideas into practice in the workplace. 

 

The 6 Rs of Sustainability 

 

Businesses are now lawfully required to try reducing the impact they have on the environment

The 6 Rs of Sustainability encourage the general population to do the same. Chances are, your students will probably have heard of at least 3 of the 6 Rs, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink, Repair, Refuse. 

But how can you reframe them to get them thinking about the sustainability of their future careers?

Reduce 

Reduce is all about getting consumers to think about their consumption habits and how they can limit them. It’s important to think about the items you regularly purchase and whether you can reduce how often they are bought and thrown away. If you can’t realistically cut back, consider purchasing more sustainable products. 

Class discussion point: what items can you think of reducing at home? Would you reconsider a job offer in an industry that produces a lot of unnecessary waste? 

Reuse

This R asks people to think about all the ways an item can be used before throwing it away. Don’t replace an item just yet - try thinking of ways you can repurpose it! Use old towels as cleaning rags, for example, or use excess packaging (like boxes and jars) for storage. 

Class discussion point: what everyday items could you reuse in the workplace? Prizes for the most creative ideas! 

Recycle

If reusing isn’t an option, recycling is the next best thing! Recycling is easier than it has ever been, and your recycled materials can be used to make a myriad of items, from paper to clothing. 

Class discussion point: what percentage of your waste do you recycle and how might you encourage recycling in the workplace? 

Rethink

Do you really need that product? Ask your students to think about the products they use and the environmental impact of their consumption habits. 

Class discussion point: what resources do we use regularly that have an impact on our environment and how might we change our consumption of them? For example, laptops, tablets and phones are now so common that we don’t need to use as much paper. Are there any other examples you can think of, including things we might use in the workplace? 

Repair

This R asks people to stop and think if an item can be repaired instead of recycled or thrown away. Mending things is an excellent way to be sustainable and extend the lifespan of all sorts of items, including clothing and toys. 

Class discussion point: what items do you have at home that have been repaired and reused? What items do you think a business could repair and how could they do this? 

Refuse

Don’t buy things you don’t need and refrain from buying things that will further contribute to waste. 

Class discussion point: How might you limit waste in the workplace? Would you consider refusing a job with a company that didn’t practise sustainability? 

Sustainability Careers

So, you’ve got your students to think about their relationship with sustainability and how they might enact sustainable practices in the workplace. 

Now let’s take a look at some of the top sustainable careers available to graduates and how they might go about securing them. 

 

Top Graduate Sustainability Jobs

 

Below are some of the top sustainability jobs for graduates (see our free, downloadable resource pack for more information on what these jobs entail and the routes into them). 

  • Environmental Officer 
  • Environmental Education Officer
  • Environmental Manager 
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Environmental Engineer 
  • Environmental Lawyer  

 

How to Build a Sustainable Career

In the sustainability space, there are multiple sectors that young professionals can enter into and still have ethical careers, including the private and public sector, charities and education. 

Here are 5 things your students can be doing to start building a sustainable career now. 

Draw up a career plan

If a student has an idea of where they want to be in 3 - 5 years, they can start planning for their future now, incorporating sustainability into their plan. They can do this by thinking about their current employability skills, the sector they are interested in (e.g private or public), the industry they want to go into (e.g engineering, investment banking, media) and the sustainability issue they would like to be mindful of as they pursue their goals (e.g climate change or plastic waste). 

Gain Work Experience 

Getting work experience within the sustainability sector is the perfect way for a student to broaden their understanding of the industry (InvestIN’s Environmentalist Programmes are a great place to start!). If work experience proves too hard to find, students could volunteer with The Wildlife Trusts, the Environmental Protection Agency or the National Trust, or for an environmental not-for-profit such as Natural England or The Conservation Volunteers. 

Work experience at a relevant organisation will help students better understand the systems already in place. It’s also a great way for them to improve their employability whilst still at school. 

Broaden Knowledge of the Sector 

Work experience is not the only way to gain knowledge of the sector. Clubs, networking events, environmental protests and campaigns can really help students understand sustainability further. Encourage students to research environmental groups, check out free webinars, festivals or conferences relating to sustainability and look into membership with charities or other professional bodies that focus on environmentalism.

Use Social Media  

Network! Students can start networking early on social media using websites like LinkedIn and Twitter. Here they can find interesting events, new contacts and potential employers. It’s worth reminding students that employers are now more likely than ever to look into a potential hire’s social media profile to check their beliefs and behaviours align with company values.

For more information on professional social media profiles, check out our blog, Success with Social Media

Research Specific Companies 

Gen Z is a socially-conscious generation whose consumptive habits are based on their judgement of businesses’ ethical practices. Young people are often well versed in how ethical different companies are, and if they don’t know, will make a point of finding out. 

Encourage students to improve on this consciousness by researching and comparing the sustainability policies of different companies or organisations they might want to work for. For example, if they are interested in fashion, they could compare sustainability policies at large retailers like H&M and Zara with smaller labels that claim to be more eco-conscious. 

Main Takeaways

  • Sustainability is a booming industry: it’s the future of the planet, after all!
  • Work experience, apprenticeships, placements and internships with charities and professional bodies all offer good ways to gain experience. 
  • Students now will be the environmentalists of the future and there is a lot educators can do now to help, such as starting conversations about sustainability, getting students to draw up a sustainable career plan and encouraging them to research the sector.
  • Careers in sustainability exist across various industries and sectors. It’s important that educators start promoting green careers as viable career paths early on and help students find the right area for them.

Resource Pack  

In this resource pack, you will find information on careers in sustainability, the ways into these careers as well as websites to help you discuss greener solutions and inspire your students. 

Going for Green Resource Pack

 

You can find a recording of the event Going for Green and view upcoming events here

Keep the discussion going with other teachers over on Twitter @InvestIN_Ed

Not sure how to help your students choose a career? An InvestIN programme offers a comprehensive insight into an industry, so students can test drive a career before committing to it. Industry experts will guide your student through immersive career simulations, hands-on activities and inspiring site visits, whilst also giving detailed advice on how to succeed.

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