What can you do with a sustainability degree? | Top Universities

What can you do with a sustainability degree?

By Chloe Lane

Updated July 5, 2022 Updated July 5, 2022

Sponsored by EDHEC Business School 

The importance of sustainability in business cannot be overlooked. Economic, social and environmental sustainability is essential in today’s business environment, with employers looking to hire graduates with a sustainable approach to problem solving. 

EDHEC Business School in France offers several postgraduate programmes focused on sustainability, including the MSc in Global & Sustainable Business and the MSc in Climate Change & Sustainable Finance

TopUniversities spoke to professors of these two master’s degrees to find out more about where a sustainability-focused degree could lead you and the types of career paths followed by graduates at EDHEC Business School. 

Who is a sustainable degree for?  

Professor Bastiaan Van der Linden, programme director for the MSc in Global & Sustainable Business, states that there are two types of students who apply for their sustainability degrees. 

The first type are students that aspire to work as some sort of sustainability specialist, for example as a corporate sustainability consultant, a sustainability officer or an ESG analyst. These are the types of roles the degree really prepares students for. 

“We take a business angle on sustainability and ask: where does this tie into the functions of a business? If you’re looking to work in these types of jobs, then you can use this knowledge in these roles,” said Professor Van der Linden. 

The second type of students who study sustainability degrees are students that don’t necessarily want to work as sustainability specialists, but would like to work in a sustainable business, such as a renewable energy company or a start-up specialising in meat-free products. 

What are some typical career paths after completing a sustainability-focused degree? 

Typical roles for MSc in Global & Sustainable Business graduates include: 

  • Sustainability consultants: Working in large companies and consulting firms, you will advise business how to deliver their products and services more sustainably.  
  • Sustainability management: You will apply sustainable practices to help meet the businesses needs without limiting future resources. 
  • Sustainability officer: You’ll be in charge of a corporation’s environmental programmes, monitoring the company’s impact on the environment and promoting sustainability. 
  • CSR manager: A corporate social responsibility (CSR) manager works to ensure that the company has a positive impact on their community. 
  • ESG analyst: You will analyse companies from an environmental, social and governance (ESG) perspective and work to improve the practices.  

Students often take on roles not related to sustainability, working in roles within supply chain management, marketing or finance. “They will approach these roles from a sustainability perspective, striving to implement sustainable practices” said Professor Van der Linden. 

For MSc in Climate Change & Sustainable Finance graduates, there are plenty of industries looking to hire graduates:  

  • Investment management companies  
  • Financial departments of large companies  
  • Consulting companies  
  • Regulation companies such as central banks and financial authorities 

These types of companies are striving to expand their operations in ESG, so are looking to hire graduates with a background in sustainable finance.  

On both of these sustainability programmes at EDHEC, there are some elective courses that allow students to specialise in certain aspects of the degree that suit their career goals.   

“For example, if a student has a particular interest in corporate finance, they can choose a path that allows them to focus on climate footprint from an asset management and investment portfolio point of view,” said Professor Gianfranco Gianfrate, a professor of the MSc in Climate Change & Sustainable Finance. 

Students at EDHEC can also tailor their learning to fit their career aspirations through the master project. During the project, you will work closely in a group with an academic sponsor and a corporate sponsor, acting as external consultants to the company. This means you will have the chance to create a project that is both practical and implementable.  

Professor Van der Linden said: “The project is always related to sustainability, but from a strategic perspective or some kind of operational issue. It's not normally a typical sustainability management assignment, but how we make a business work in this sustainability context.” 

How does a sustainable degree boost your employability?  

Practical skills  

“The problem with learning about sustainability is that the moment you learn it, it’s already outdated,” said Professor Van der Linden. “This is why we train students to be competent in their field and to acquire new competences when necessary. We provide an education that invites students to take the initiative to discover things themselves.”   

Students will learn a range of transferrable skills in the MSc in Global & Sustainable Business, including:  

  • Negotiations: Students will learn about negotiation in a procurement setting, helping them negotiate contracts. 
  • Leadership: EDHEC offers a leadership module, which teaches students how to use leadership to implement strategy. 
  • Risk management: You will understand how to identify possible risks and develop strategies to protect against these risks.  

In the MSc in Climate Change & Sustainable Finance, skills that students will learn include: 

  • Creating persuasive arguments: During presentations, students will be required to defend certain business decisions they have made, using data and facts. 
  • Critical analysis: Students will not only learn to analyse problems, but also use this analysis to present solutions to problems, keeping sustainability in mind.  

Prof Gianfrate said: “We are trying to help students develop a critical approach to problems.  

“For example, when trying to quantify the sustainability footprint of a company or investor, you need to understand any conflicts of interest to critically assess the methodologies in place. This will help you pave the way for better methodologies and better metrics.”  

Practical elements of the programme 

As sustainable practices in business are fast changing, gaining experience is a vital part of a sustainability degree.  

Involvement from industry representatives 

Throughout both degrees there is frequent involvement with corporate sponsors. EDHEC has partnerships with more than 150 companies. 

For the MSc in Climate Change & Sustainable Finance, corporate sponsors are not only involved in the thesis project, but also help teach some of the classes.   

In Prof Gianfrate’s climate finance module he teaches what project finance is and how it can be used to finance the production of green energy. Investment bankers from one of the corporate sponsors then come to the campus for a day to do a workshop on project finance modeling in Excel. 

“Students get to learn the theory, but they also see actual green finance projects done by investment bankers. These investment bankers teach the tricks and the shortcuts to create real financial models. There is a lot of practical training led by corporate partners,” said Prof Gianfrate. 

Similarly, EDHEC’s MSc in Global & Sustainable Business regularly invites business representatives to give practical, up-to-date examples of how sustainable practices can be used in business. They recently invited a marketing executive from Unilever come in to talk about marketing from a sustainability perspective.   

Solving real business problems 

In exams and assignments EDHEC’s students will work on real business cases.  

For example, in one of the MSc in Climate Change & Sustainable Finance’s modules students must use analysis to provide a more accurate rating for a company, challenging the existing rating using a company’s real data. 

EDHEC’s MSc in Global & Sustainable Business creates intellectual challenges of a practical nature.  

For example, close to EDHEC’s campus in Lille there is a brownfield site in between three villages. EDHEC’s students received an assignment from a consulting company to try and find a good use for this land. They had to take into account all the possible challenges in finding a sustainable use for an old industrial terrain in the middle of an urban zone.  

“Students will then get to present their solutions to the company, the owner and the project developer,” said Prof Van der Linden. “It’s amazing that they can have a large impact on projects so close to where they are studying.” 

This article was originally published in July 2022 .

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Written by

As Content Editor for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, Chloe creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. Chloe has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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