According to recent figures, for example the QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey, an increasing number of MBA applicants in the 21st century are keen to choose a 'good' job, a career path that would allow them to use their skills to help make the planet a better place. But the same people, as MBA graduates, may look at their debts and wonder how they can balance their desire to get into the field of sustainability but also make some money?
The good news is that there are lots of options. According to Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, Millions of new jobs are among the gold-plated linings on the cloud of climate change. He says that there are several sectors likely to create jobs, including clean energy and clean technologies, sustainable agriculture, ecosystem infrastructure and sustainable cities including planning transportation and building. But the growth of sustainable jobs goes beyond those associated with climate change. There is an increasing number of opportunities available to graduates across sectors and industries.
Range of options
Many graduates looking to move into a more socially responsible career look at options in NGOs, not for profits or international organizations. Several of these organizations now work directly with the business sector on sustainability issues. Forum for the Future, based in London, works with businesses on their sustainability strategies. The World Wildlife Federation, an international conservation organization, has a division focused solely on working with business and industry.
Graduates can also choose to explore career opportunities in the growing world of international sustainability standards and networks in which the business sector is active. This includes the International Fair Trade Organization, the Forest Stewardship Council, which certifies paper and wood products from responsibly managed forest sources and the Global Reporting Initiative, an organization that works on setting standards for sustainability reporting.
Christine Dandy at the career services office at London Business School in the United Kingdom is responsible for government and not for profit jobs. She says that that there is definitely an interest increase in not for-profit-jobs not just with MBA and executive MBA students but also with the executive MBAs. Many executive MBAs are very interested in switching to a career in not- for- profit. The feedback I get is that they've succeeded in the corporate world and are looking to give back during the second half of their career. She does acknowledge that the salaries are lower, As for salary, they are almost all less than the typical finance and consulting roles. However, some of them are comparable to salaries in FMCG, retail and other industry sectors.
Within industry there has been a significant increase in sustainable career options recently which are more in line with the salaries graduates expect post graduation. In fact as more companies choose to take sustainability seriously, they are offering a wider range of jobs in this area, either within a sustainability department or within units of the business that are working on sustainability related issues. However not all of these jobs have the word green or sustainability in the job title so they are not always easy to find. Companies such as Unilever, a manufacturer of food, home care and personal products, are committed as a whole to sustainable development so you could find green opportunities and initiatives within almost any position. PepsiCo works closely with their suppliers to be more sustainably so there are a range of jobs within their supply chain that all provides similar opportunities. The same goes for smaller companies. Innocent, a natural juice company based in the UK and Terracycle, a company that recycles waste into products that it then resells, both arguably only offer sustainability related jobs.
If you are looking for a job that has the word sustainability or green in the title, pretty much every job and profession now has a green alternative, including the career paths most popular with MBA graduates, finance and consulting. For example, graduates interested in working in the financial sector can go into social responsible investing and consultants can specialize in sustainability consulting. Pretty much all of the top financial institutions and consulting firms have sustainability divisions or projects including McKinsey, Goldman Sachs and HSBC.
Opportunities within companies
Even if you are not able to find a job focused on sustainability, there are quite a few options to still expose yourself to these issues in your career and gain some experience that could place you in position to apply for a sustainability related job later. Many companies have special programs available for employees interested in working in sustainable development. The International Exchange takes communication professionals who currently work in communications companies from developed countries and pair them up with suitable NGOs in developing countries, in particular Brazil. The Accenture Development Partnerships Program sends Accenture consultants to developing countries to work on special consulting projects. In both cases, employees return to the company with a new set of knowledge and skills.
Any job can be a green job
The most important point to remember when looking into the field of sustainability is that any and every job can be a green job. If you really want to have an impact, use your skills and passion by going into a company and bringing about change from the inside. Does your company have a sustainability strategy and can you get involved in implementing this through your own job? Are there office greening programs or other groups within the company you can get involved in? Are there ways that you can bring sustainability into the work you do on a daily basis?
If working from the inside of a company to bring about change isn't exactly where you see yourself, you might choose to be a social or environmental entrepreneur. With the increasing number of opportunities arising in the sustainability sphere, several entrepreneurial MBA graduates are starting companies aimed at filling gaps. The Global Social Venture Competition is global social business plan competition where MBA students can get feedback on their ideas, mentorship and potentially some money to start up their venture.
How do I get one of these jobs?
During your MBA, look at gaining as much experience in the area that is of interest as you can. Look into doing internships before, during or after your MBA in organizations working on sustainability to get some first hand experience. If you can't find an internship, take advantage of your time at school to focus your research or other project work on sustainability issues.
Regardless of your skills, the MBA or the career path you choose to take, there are a growing range of viable options in the sustainability sphere that will make you and your bank account happy. As companies get more engaged in the sustainability arena sustainability will become part of everyone's job.