4 careers to pursue if you want to work in sustainability | Top Universities

4 careers to pursue if you want to work in sustainability

By Aisha K

Updated November 10, 2022 Updated November 10, 2022

With scrutiny on nation leaders to take urgent action against climate change, businesses are also considering ways in which they can become more efficient and environmentally friendly. Whether you’re interested in law, fashion or tech, a variety of sustainability focused roles are being introduced into industries outside of the energy and environment sector.  

Here are four roles to consider if you’re interested in pursuing a career in sustainability: 

Sustainability consultant 

Sustainability consultants help businesses become more socially and environmentally responsible in terms of their operations. As well as evaluating the impact a business is having on the environment, they also need to work out how to run operations in a way that leaves as little environmental impact as possible.  

Sustainability consultants can find themselves working on a range of projects including urban regeneration, residential development or transport infrastructure. You’ll need to be comfortable working cross-functionally to report data, present recommendations and support marketing with external messaging on sustainability.  

Although sustainability consultants come from a range of backgrounds, it can be particularly useful to study a degree in related fields such as geography, environmental science or civil engineering.  

Many universities also provide postgraduate degrees that specifically cater to students who want to work in advising careers. For example, Cardiff University (ranked 25th globally in the QS World University Rankings: Sustainability 2023), offers a master’s in Sustainable Planning and Environmental Policy.  

Designed to help students contribute to future policy development on sustainability issues, graduates now work in a range of related jobs including sustainable consulting.  

ESG analyst 

If you’re considering a career in finance, the role of an ESG (environmental, social and governance) analyst can ensure you create a sustainable impact in the industry.  

Core responsibilities include analysing non-financial aspects of investment opportunities to provide holistic conclusions to stakeholders or companies.  

A Citywire interview with Tom Woodfield from Architas, an investment firm, describes a typical day of an ESG analyst. Tom said: “In my view, the role of an ESG analyst in asset management is to look at every part of the investment process through a sustainability lens, ensuring there is a responsible investing framework in place for the consideration of extra financial risks.” 

He says that a large majority of his time is spent speaking to investment houses to better understand how ESG considerations influence investment decision making.  

“These include excluding companies that perform poorly on ESG issues, integrating relevant ESG risks and opportunities into valuation models, and engaging with companies in order to improve their ESG performance.” 

As well as possessing strong quantitative skills, prospective candidates from finance backgrounds should also display an interest in sustainability issues.  

Although a degree in environmental science may not be necessary, pursuing relevant qualifications, such as the Certificate in ESG Investing, can help demonstrate understanding of ESG principles.  

Environmental/sustainability engineer 

As the name suggests, sustainable engineering means designing and operating systems that don’t compromise the natural environment or resources for future generations. Major issues such as flood risk, water supply and sanitation, management of pollutants, and disposal of waste products are some of the most common areas that engineers may work on.  

Depending on the project you’re working on, some responsibilities may involve implementing and managing the day-to-day tasks of construction and remediation schemes, gathering data from site assessments, and providing advice to professionals, such as construction workers and lawyers, to address environmental issues. Engineers can expect a varied workload, especially as many jobs require frequent travel to conduct site work.  

Engineering degrees are highly relevant for entry but other scientific disciplines such as chemistry, geology and physics may be accepted by employers.  

Many degree programmes will include field work to enable students to gain practical experience before graduation. For example, the environmental engineering programme at the University of British Columbia (ranked as the third-best university globally for sustainability) offers a co-op placement, one of the largest in Western Canada, where students gain paid, full-time experience in a range of professional settings.  

Sustainable supply chain manager 

Sustainable supply chain managers are tasked with assessing the environmental and human impact of their product’s journey, from sourcing raw materials and production to delivery and transportation.  

As many industries become more conscious about the impact of their operations, sustainable supply chain managers also consider social matters such as human rights, labour rights and modern slavery risk, and address these issues in procurement.  

As you would expect, roles require previous experience working in supply chain, a strong commercial acumen and technical knowledge of environmental standards. Entry into supply chain jobs is usually open to graduates from all disciplines, but many professionals come from related fields such as business management, finance or IT.  

Many business schools have incorporated sustainable supply chain management into their curriculum to meet growing demand from employers. For example, at Rutgers University-New Brunswick (ranked 52nd overall), business school students on the MBA programme and other related degrees can study a concentration in Supply Chain Sustainability and Social Compliance.  

The concentration aims to train managers in state-of-the-art methods that firms are using to implement socially and environmentally sustainable supply chains and business practices.  


This article was originally published in November 2022 .

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Written by

Aisha is Content Editor for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, creating and publishing a wide range of articles for an international student audience. A native Londoner, Aisha graduated from the London School of Economics with a degree in Philosophy and has previously worked in the civil service. 

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