Standing out in the Sustainability Jobs Market

Standing out in the Sustainability Jobs Market

Good news – the Sustainability sector is positively blooming. Governments around the globe are pushing for initiatives to tackle climate change, modernising digital and physical infrastructures, providing tremendous opportunities for growth. In the race to net-zero targets, the UK has committed £134 million to businesses to “build back greener”, investing in clean energy and green jobs. Now is the perfect time to search for work in the Sustainability sector – but how do you stand out in an increasingly competitive job market? I spoke to our Associate Director David Ward, for his insights on searching for and applying to senior-level roles in the Sustainability sector.

The demand for Sustainability specialists

In his 7 years of experience within recruitment, David has witnessed first-hand a clear shift in just how seriously Sustainability is being taken in boardrooms and beyond. “It's the first word on the agenda for any company. And if it's not, then they are failing at what they're supposed to be doing,” says David. 

As a result, there’s an increasing demand for skilled Sustainability specialists. In a study by LinkedIn, they identified around 800 core ‘green skills’ across 12 categories, including Renewable Energy and Sustainability. According to the report, many of the ‘green skills’ reported by LinkedIn’s members have seen double or triple-digit growth between 2018 and 2020. 

But how has COVID-19 affected the Sustainability jobs market? In the last six to eight months, David has noticed a real change. “In general terms, the sustainability market is very buoyant at the moment. More than buoyant.” David said. “I noticed just before Christmas there was a real increase in demand from clients wanting to expand their Sustainability teams. This has only increased as the COVID pandemic has become a little bit less intrusive on operations.” As a result, it’s clear there’s an increasing need for Sustainability and CSR professionals.

Selling your skills as a Sustainability candidate

When it comes to marketing yourself in the Sustainability jobs market, David explains there are no shortcuts. “It's not cut and dry. Unless you have the experience to demonstrate it, You can't really market yourself to be better than anybody else. The only way to gain experience is to seek out real projects to get involved in and to see those through to completion. There are no quick wins.” 

But what are some of the key areas of experience that our clients are looking for? Currently, there’s a particular demand for corporate sustainability professionals with experience in carbon offsetting, carbon footprinting and Greenhouse Gas Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. “If you can show expertise within these areas, it is absolutely sought after,” David says. ESG is also experiencing a tremendous period of growth – however, David warns against overselling yourself as an ESG expert. “At the moment people say, ‘I'm an expert within ESG’ – how can you be an expert on something that's only really existed for three or four years? It is a shift in perspective, terminology and methodologies, whilst using the historic environmental or sustainability-biased legacy programmes.”

Naturally, qualifications do of course play a part in all this – an academic background in Climate Risk, Environmental, Social Science or Biology will help, and Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership courses are looked upon favourably. But while there’s strength in qualifications, being able to demonstrate understanding through projects is invaluable. 

The power of practical project experience in Sustainability

David’s advice? Longevity in a role. Practical experience of delivering within a project is key. For example, with greenhouse gas emissions and carbon accounting, project experience demonstrating an understanding of the 2050, 2060 or 2080 standards is ideal. Our clients want to see that you have the capability and skills to meet net-zero or science-based targets. This can be difficult to tell from a certificate, whereas a project you’ve run and demonstrated expertise in will speak volumes.

But for Sustainability professionals seeking to progress into senior-level roles, what can you do to help your job search in Sustainability? “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 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.”


Our Sustainability team works closely with consultancies and corporates to provide specialist staff with expertise in sustainability strategy, climate risk, net-zero, carbon offsetting, sustainability management, CSR, ESG and sustainable finance. Get in touch with them today to discuss your next career move. Keep up to date with our latest Sustainability vacancies, and follow us on LinkedIn for our latest vacancies and industry insights.