While we haven’t yet reached the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are looking past the current crisis and thinking about the future. How can we navigate the new reality of the world in which we’re living? What behaviors should we adopt to prevent any further spread? A significant number of us may also be rethinking our career choices, or exploring new options following unemployment.
This need for change also meshes well with the growing desire for making sure our jobs have a positive impact on the world. In a 2017 survey, 90% of Millennials polled stated that it was important that the companies they worked for were sustainable. Between COVID-19 safety concerns and environmental impact, the workforce is increasingly focused on their responsibilities to the planet and their fellow human beings.
So what does the future of sustainable jobs look like? What are the key industries that are taking sustainability seriously? How does the reality of a post-COVID-19 world fit into your ability to find a career that reflects your ethical and environmental priorities?
The world has changed, and the business landscape has altered alongside it. The best first step is understanding which companies and industries have committed to sustainability in the aftermath of COVID-19. This can help you direct not just your job search, but also identify any additional training and upskilling you need to undertake.
According to a 2020 study, many of the most sustainable companies worldwide operate within the software, utility, and finance industries. The same study showed that the majority of sustainable jobs are also located in Europe. This gives some insight into which industries and markets are being successful in implementing sustainability standards. However, it’s also important that you do your due diligence in researching these industries on aspects such as:
Stability. While utilities appear to among the most sustainable industries today, it remains that the clean energy industry was hit hard in terms of unemployment in the wake of COVID-19. Clean energy may well be our best hope for the future, but be certain to look into how each business is constructed to withstand crises.
Partnerships. Which industries are proactive in building partnerships to form strong bonds that help forge routes out of the difficulties they’ve experienced during the pandemic? This can help identify which companies value the idea of community, and recognize the necessity to collaborate in a way that benefits everybody involved.
Activities. What makes an industry sustainable is not just its public stance on the prevalent issues, but also how it enacts them internally. Small steps, such as finding alternatives to finite natural resources such as toilet paper can make a significant impact. It also shows which businesses are cognizant of how their activities affect the wider environment, including waste disposal and water consumption.
It’s important to do some research into the operations of potential employers while you’re exploring the job market. Utilize LinkedIn and Glassdoor to see what the employees themselves are saying about the business’ overall commitment to sustainability, rather than just going by what’s on the company website.
The good news is, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to adopt innately sustainable operations. Remote work is a prevalent feature of this crisis, and many businesses have begun to understand that this approach also has a positive effect on overheads and environmental impact. Some companies have already announced their plans to continue in this fashion for the foreseeable future. One of the key trends in job searches at the moment is also a focus on a shorter working week; this has both industry and government support in some locations. Businesses that embrace a shorter week go beyond making their operations more sustainable through reduced consumption of resources. They also improve the work/life balance of their employees.
Operational aspects are a useful area to focus on when you’re narrowing your search for a job in sustainability. Look at the job requirements; do they emphasize that positions are remote just for the time being, or are they open to a permanently flexible approach? Are they specifying the need for green skill sets? These are often no different to skills required in non-sustainable jobs, but you should look for clues such as adherence to carbon-neutral practices and paperless document use. Do a deep dive into how they operate, and you can gain a better insight into their commitment to sustainability.
Emphasis on Social Responsibility
Even before our current pandemic, businesses were beginning to prioritize corporate responsibility. This included efforts to reduce the business’ negative impact not just on the environment, but also on the humans who inhabit it. Following COVID-19 this has become somewhat magnified, with customers gaining a renewed insight into which companies care about the wellbeing of staff and consumers.
As a potential job candidate, one of the ways you can navigate the market to find companies that place a high premium on both environmental and ethical sustainability is by:
Examining the internal company structure. Does the business commit to not just employing a diverse workforce, but promoting them to positions of leadership? Don’t look only at the public statements on social media, look at the background of those who make key company decisions.
Reviewing community partnerships. What charities and organizations do the company work with? Think beyond just donations; how do they make meaningful, practical contributions?
In navigating the post-COVID-19 market, it's also important to examine your own commitment to sustainable behavior. The predicted future of business places various expectations on workers’ technological and soft skills. But one stand out requirement is that workers should be prepared to spearhead efforts for social change. You can put yourself ahead of the competition by making concerted efforts to volunteer for programs that reflect your sustainability and social priorities. You should also be certain to make your passion for this a topic of discussion during interviews.
COVID-19 has served to shake up most industries and has detrimentally affected employment. However, sustainability remains a priority for many of us. As you explore the potential for a sustainable career, you should research which industries are making efforts to improve. Review how operations have not just changed to cope with the pandemic, but shifted permanently. Focus on how companies approach environmental and ethical standards, and — perhaps more importantly — how you’re making your own efforts that could mesh well with these.
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