Sustainability managers ensure that their company upholds and works towards finding new, innovative and economically reductive ways to stay green.
You will be in charge of developing, implementing and monitoring company or organisational environmental strategies. You will also be responsible for communicating your plans, formulating budgets and marketing your green strategies to vendors, customers and colleagues.
This is a career that enables you to help make a difference in the way businesses, large or small, impact the environment.
The importance of sustainability, which is becoming more prevalent, offers you a variety of settings to work in, such as environmental consultancies, local authorities, universities and central government bodies - anywhere that wants and needs to manage and reduce green energy waste.
However, as a sustainability manager, wherever you work you will always be responsible for certain tasks such as creating marketing strategies, building and looking after budgets and managing internal and external communications.
- Implement changes and communicate them effectively: Aside from creating strategies to make your workplace greener, sustainability managers are also responsible for communicating and marketing sustainability campaigns to internal and external stakeholders. You will be working closely with HR, PR, your colleagues, vendors, your audience and in some cases the press, to educate and inform them on the changes you’re looking to implement and how they will impact the environment and workplace.
- Measure your company's sustainability performance: It is crucial to keep track of what you are doing to make your company more sustainable. For example, biotechnology company, Biogen Indec, have used context-based metrics to measure their sustainability efforts and largely credit this method to helping them reach the number two spot in the 2014 Global 100 Most Sustainable Company list. Simply measuring and keeping track of your KPIs will work too, although it is not as sophisticated.
- Analyse and audit: A career in sustainability management requires you to undertake a great deal of analysis. You need to analyse the waste, audit it, come up with solutions, weigh up the pros and cons of your decision, and then implement it.
When you first start out in a sustainability manager role, you’ll typically be expected to assess any inefficiencies in your organisation. You will need to identify the issues quickly and find the most economical ways to fix them. This takes an analytical mind - someone who can pinpoint problems and research smart and effective ways to deal with them.
You are also expected to be creative in the way you think, as the ideas you have for creating a greener organisation need to be innovative. If you can be both analytical and creative with your ideas - critically tailoring your cutting edge ideas to suit the organisation you’re working for - then this could be the career for you.
This job requires you to be organised and enjoy multi-tasking. As a sustainability manager you are responsible for coordinating a variety of projects, ideas and strategies with people. Therefore, organisation, planning and communication skills are essential.
While this career path is open to anyone with the right experience, skills and passion for sustainability - a bachelor’s degree in business, environmental sciences, environmental management, engineering or sustainability, are highly regarded by recruiters and employers.
Work on getting your ISO 14001 Environmental Management standard, as it will help you understand the basic environmental management framework your organisation is working with and will ultimately help you get to grips with the industry standard.
It is also worth getting BREEAM certified. BREEAM is an environmental assessment method for buildings, useful for you to help figure out what running costs can be reduced, what needs to be measured and how you can effectively improve the performance of your organisation’s building.
Experience in sustainability or environmental science is a must. Candidates with experience in business management must express a proven interest in sustainability or environmental science.
“Take advantage of networking events - attend as many as possible. This will help you gain confidence and improve your networking skills. Join online industry groups on social media - try to get involved in relevant discussions to get your profile and name known in the industry, as it’s important to build a strong and active social profile when applying for a job. You can also use these connections to ask for work experience.”
Look into obtaining IEMA membership. They offer access to courses, training and conferences. They have a range of tailored membership packages - their graduate package helps you to navigate and get ahead in the sector. After two years you can progress onto the affiliate package where they help you understand the world of environmental management and provide access to workshops and networking events.
The average salary hovers around £38,000, rising to over £50,000 in more senior positions.
The working hours for a sustainability manager vary by organisation and place of work.
Sustainability roles aren’t typically based on structured career paths - the industry and the role are still too new. However, there may be room to grow your role and increase your level of seniority by becoming a senior sustainability manager or senior environmental manager, for example.
Your experiences, goals, ambitions, innovative spirit and up to date knowledge of the latest industry trends will help you stand out in order to grow your career. In addition, people management, budget management, analytical skills and evidence of your sustainability achievements will stand you in good stead for career progression.
Industry advice for future sustainability managers
“Breaking into the sustainability sector requires persistence and patience. It’s a highly competitive industry - one that makes it necessary for you make a valiant effort to stand out from the crowd. Ensure your CV and cover letter are up to date, well presented and highlight as much relevant experience as possible in two readable pages.
“Don’t be afraid to look at your network for anyone connected to the sector. See if they can help with your application, give you any advice, or provide you with work experience, apprenticeship or internship opportunities.”
-Jeremy Money, managing director of JSM Associates