Create Your Dream Sustainability Job

Are you unhappy with your job? Many people are.

Every time I teach my 15-hour class “Managing Sustainable Change in an Organization” at UC Berkeley Extension at least a few students ask how they can find a job in sustainability. The truth is, there aren’t as many jobs as there should be doing energy efficiency, water conservation, waste prevention, alternative commute mentoring and pollution prevention within a business. These projects are usually done on an ad hoc basis by whoever within the organization cares most about making them happen.

Just like the idea that if you can’t find the book you want to read you should write it, if you can’t find the job you want you should create it. Where you already are.

I have seen a number of people create their own sustainability project manager job at the company where they work. They start small. They find a few small projects to work on during their lunch hour or at night then give their boss a heads up they want to work on these projects on their free time.

Once they implement these projects and can quantify the benefits, they ask to be able to work on additional projects a few hours/week during the work week. Then half time and eventually full time if they can prove the value proposition.

The key algorithm involves calculating tangible bottom-line benefits. Consider the following hard and soft benefits.

  • Operational cost savings (energy, water, materials, waste)
  • Employee engagement
  • Employee productivity
  • Increased sales from green branding
  • Competitive advantage
  • Risk reduction

Management is always looking to trim operational costs. Those are the hard costs. The much larger potential benefits are in the soft costs within the other bullets. If management has been talking about wanting to improve employee engagement or increase sales from green branding, this may be the perfect time to initiate a business sustainability program.