Published: Nov. 2, 2020 By

Do What You Love

Leeds students often talk with CESR about their desire to use their business skills to make the world a better place. This fall, CESR has been hosting a series of round table discussions for graduate students on Careers in Sustainability that look at exactly this question. These panels feature speakers working in a range of roles and industries, showcasing the variety of ways business students can leverage their skills into social responsibility and sustainability careers. Don’t miss the final two events in this series this semester: register for Impact Finance (co-presented with the Burridge Center), and Marketing and Sales today. 

Most students who attend the Careers in Sustainability panels are drawn by their desire to have a purpose-driven career. Specifically, these panels are an opportunity for graduate students to learn more about the practical applications of CSR and sustainability, and the day-to-day reality of working in a variety of sustainability related positions. 

Making an impact

From energy consulting to impact investing, natural foods and microbrews to edtech and global logistics to apparel, the speakers in the Careers in Sustainability series demonstrate that it is not necessary to have the title Chief Sustainability Officer, or Director, CSR, to have a meaningful impact on the social, environmental and ethical work of a company. In fact, our speakers urge students to think about how to make a contribution in any role, and any stage of professional life. 

Hannah Kight, Sr. EHS Manager at Breckenridge Brewery, and panelist in our Supply Chain and Operations session in October, advises students not to “dismiss an opportunity because it doesn’t fit exactly what they are looking for. In sustainability there are often roles or projects within a company that can lead you into the sustainability space within that company.”

What employers are looking for

As both members of the workforce, and employers themselves, our panelists say that when hiring for sustainability roles, the strongest candidates have both strong technical and interpersonal skills, and can work across different groups and functional areas.

Colette Crouse, Senior Consultant at POINT380, and featured on the Emerging Leaders panel in September, says that "beyond strong communication and collaboration, most roles in sustainability rely on solid analysis skills and financial literacy. Employers are looking for prospective hires who are as comfortable with Excel spreadsheets as they are giving presentations to stakeholders and clients."

Sean Ansett, Founder At Stake Advisors, and a participant in our Supply Chain and Operations session, knows from both working for other companies and running his own that "employers are looking for agile and systems thinkers that understand how the whole system works and how to capture value within the system. Sustainability leadership is often part art and part science and requires strong emotional intelligence, empathy and influencing skills upward, downward and laterally." 

Rick Gabrielson, Global Supply Chain Executive, and also a participant in our Supply Chain and Operations session believes that companies are also looking for employees who "understand what sustainability opportunities are available to the company based on the business segment, and understand the balance between costs and sustainable practices. Companies have to balance making changes in processes and practices to improve sustainability and the costs to accomplish their sustainability roadmap. Sometimes, you have to recognize that this is a journey and not a sprint."

Advice for students

For those interested in a career in sustainability, our panelists have the following advice:

"Stay curious and continue to question systems and processes in your organization.  We must seek to build back better rather than simply being less bad regarding how we operate companies, the products we make, and the services we provide" - Sean Ansett

“Don’t be afraid to ask about creating a role. Just because a specific sustainability role does not currently exist within a company, doesn’t mean you can’t use your knowledge and education to convince a company to create a position or make it part of a job.” - Hannah Kight

"Everyone should have at least one mentor, but they can have more than one. Also, be tenacious in your learning about yourself, the industry and your company." - Rick Gabrielson

Upcoming Events

Want to learn more about working in sustainability? Register for the next two Careers in Sustainability Events. Panelists will share insights from their careers, and how they leverage their role to advance sustainability, CSR (corporate social responsibility), and ethical leadership.

Impact Finance (co-presented with the Burridge Center), Nov 4, 12:30-1:30pm
Join us as we explore what it is like to work in purpose-driven finance. When thinking about impact in the financial world, "many companies now (finally) realize they need to not only have a stance, but be able to provide customers with the ability to be involved themselves in maximizing their impact,” says Matthew Fleming, who heads up the Burridge Center. “Having the right employee for what might be a role in transition is critically important for success."

Panelists include:

Marketing and Sales, Nov. 17, 12:30-1:30pm
Explore what it is really like to work in a sustainable business with leaders from the fields of marketing and sales. Speakers come from natural foods, strategy, banking and non-profit backgrounds and work in roles including sales, marketing and community engagement.

Panelists include: