Sustainability is a buzzword these days. It was brought to the forefront of people’s minds, especially after the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference in November 2021, also known as COP26, where world leaders come together to discuss, negotiate and pledge their commitment towards tackling climate change by introducing measures to curtail deforestation and reduce carbon emissions to ensure sustainability in the environment.
Individuals and businesses are following suit, not just as a moral obligation towards the world we live in, but with increasing focus and expectations on corporate responsibility in leading sustainability efforts, companies are looking at sustainability as a competitive business approach to improve their corporate image and branding. Individually, consumers and employees are gradually becoming more environmentally conscious and inclined to buy from or work for organisations that are taking the lead in their sustainability efforts. With an increasing emphasis on sustainability in businesses, new roles relating to sustainability are also being created.
What does a role in sustainability entail?
Before we delve into the sustainability roles available, we need to first understand what sustainability is. Sustainability refers to a balance between the needs of the environment and economy as well as the needs between the present and the future, in order to ensure continuity in our modern way of life. Therefore, a role in sustainability will help to develop the organisation’s sustainability strategies that will ensure ethical business practices and responsible management of the organisation’s resources to improve their environmental and social impact.
Most of the Fortune 500 companies have hired a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) in recent years to drive their sustainability initiatives. Based on GreenBiz’s State of the Profession report in 2020, 58% of large organisations have increased the headcount for sustainability-related roles since 2018. Other sustainability-related positions include Director of Sustainability, Director of Corporate Responsibility, Corporate Sustainability Process Manager, Sustainability Manager, Sustainability Analyst, Sustainability Coordinator, Sustainability Strategy Associate, Sustainability Specialist and Social Impact Manager.
The responsibilities of these roles may include:
- Review existing business practices in the area of waste and resource management, pollution, carbon generation and energy use.
- Plan and develop sustainability strategies to improve inefficiencies in the abovementioned areas.
- Monitor and maintain sustainability programme budgets and schedules.
- Assess the outcome and effectiveness of sustainability programmes and initiatives through reports.
- Evaluate feasibility of sustainability programmes, in terms of cost effectiveness and available resources.
- Implement changes in the workplace according to sustainability strategies and communicate them effectively across the organisation..
- Manage marketing campaigns to promote the organisation’s sustainability efforts to internal and external stakeholders.
What are the skills you need to be equipped with?
As sustainability is a relatively new and niche area, the role is usually open to those with the relevant experience, skills and passion for sustainability, although being equipped with a bachelor’s degree in business management, environmental management, social sciences, or engineering may increase your chances significantly. Obtaining an ISO 14001 Environmental Management standard will also enhance your understanding of the basic environmental management framework that you can use to assess your organisation with and compare it to the industry standard.
In addition, to be able to address issues of inefficiencies within the organisation, it takes strong creativity and analytical skills to come up with effective measures to curb them. Cultivating your design thinking is one way to strengthen your strategy development and problem solving skills. The Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC) Institute offers the WSQ Implement Design Thinking (SF) course that can help to get you started. Through this course, you will be able to adopt Design Thinking principles and techniques and develop innovative measures for organisations to achieve sustainability goals.
On the other hand, if you are looking to transform your business model and redesign job roles to pivot towards sustainability, SFIC Institute’s Design Thinking Business Transformation Programme will provide you with business and design thinking consultants from various fields of expertise to guide you in your journey of transformation. For more programme information, please visit www.sficinstitute.com/partner-courses.