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Sustainability job hiring grew almost 40%. Here are some of the hottest skills right now.

LinkedIn says demand for green skills is greater than supply — "a significant missed opportunity for the planet and for workers."1 You can help change that.

EDF’s Yesh Pavlik Slenk sat down with one of the foremost researchers studying the growth of corporate sustainability jobs, John Davies of GreenBiz, to get the the inside scoop for where the jobs are and what you need to get ahead.

Q: How fast is the sustainability job market growing?

A: I think it's growing quite fast right now, but I temper that. We saw a big growth about 10 or 12 years ago. And then when the recession hit, we saw a lot of those jobs eliminated. And they've slowly, slowly come back. But I think we're at a different point now.

There's such a focus today on not just climate change, but the intersection of climate change and environmental justice. I think there's a desire for more regulation and legislation to attack some of these issues. But I think we're really seeing the corporate community standing up and saying, “We need to be part of the conversation, better corporate citizens.”

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Q: What does that intersection and the new highlight on climate justice mean for job seekers?

A: I think it is part of the driver for why we're seeing such a growth in sustainability-related jobs and employment. So I think this greater focus on this intersectionality is what's really driving more opportunities and more job listings.

Q: What kinds of sustainability jobs are you tracking?

A: There are different lenses that you need to look through when you look at jobs in sustainability. There's the core sustainability team. But that's usually a very small team at most companies. That may be lone warrior, it may be a team of five people.

But then what we've seen over the years is a lot of roles that are embedded in different functions. So sustainable procurement, sustainable supply chain — in manufacturing, in facilities.

Then there's a real focus in the financial sector on ESG (environmental, social and governance) analysts. This was not a big thing three years ago, and it's become such a huge thing in terms of the number of opportunities that are out there at various banks and other financial institutions.

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Q: What are the hottest skills right now and why?

A: We had LinkedIn do some research for us around hot skills. We saw a lot of sustainability-related skills in what they found, in just looking at overall the job landscape. Those were things like getting involved in the circular economy (see graphic below), presentation skills, reporting skills. But I think the real key skills are having a solid business background and knowing how to make a really good business case.

I think a lot of times people think of business case as sums and balances on a spreadsheet, and that it's just math, but it's not. It's really the ability to collaborate, to gain consensus.

But it's a really important skill because when you work in sustainability, whether you're on the main team or whether you're in one of the functional groups, you have to work across silos. There's no way of getting around it. And you've got to build consensus.

You're really serving as the chief translation officer. And you're trying to take to the supply chain folks, the purchasing people, the manufacturing people, you're trying to translate what you want to achieve into a language that they can understand.

A quick look at the circular economy creating sustainability jobs

circular economy infographic

Used with permission from Circular Innovation Council.

Q: Who is hiring for those skills?

A: Circular economy is touching all different areas, and it's a very nascent role or function within a company. It's popping up in medical devices, in tech companies, in fashion, in apparel, in all these different areas. There are new opportunities, I think, when you change the way you look at things, and that's what I think circular economy really has brought about.

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Q: What industries are hiring sustainability professionals?

A: I don't think it's a particular industry. So I often tell people who are looking for their next position that they should really look for the companies that they want to go to rather than the specific job. There are a couple of ways you can look at it. You can say, “Oh, I want to go to a company that's a top performer.” So everybody wants to get hired by Patagonia.

But then there's also the rescue companies. I know people who have cold-called companies to say, I've looked at your performance. I think there are opportunities here, because when you can present a chance for opportunity at a company, they're going to listen.

Q: Marnie of Denver writes: "It's hard to market yourself, if you don't fit into a special niche. How should I talk about my skills?"

A: If you walked into the grocery store of jobs and you looked at what I have in terms of my history and you walked down the aisles, there'd be no aisle shelf where I fit. No one would pick me up!

I think it's about networking with people, not in a transactional way, but in talking to people and getting their input. When I do that, I tend to have a biography rather than a resume. A resume, when you're talking to someone says, “Hey, I'm looking for a job. Do you have one?”

Whereas if you send them a biography that maybe highlights three different key things you could bring to an organization — what you get to do with that is to mix and match in time. It's helped me a lot as I've done my job searches.

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Hear this and more of the Q&A on our Degrees podcast, the place to learn about planet-saving careers.

1 Source: LinkedIn

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