Jobs in sustainability are increasingly in-demand across many employment sectors. Neha Oka (MSc Global Strategy and Sustainability) shares the insights she gained about environmentally-focused careers during a panel discussion at the Employability and Careers Expo 2023.
Aerial view of the University of Edinburgh Central campus

As a postgraduate student, it can be daunting to navigate career paths and figure out which one would align best with your interests and skillset. Luckily, the University of Edinburgh Business School offers numerous opportunities to explore our passions and find our way. One of these opportunities came in the form of the Sustainability Careers Panel, which was a part of the Employability & Careers Expo 2023. As a student of the MSc Global Strategy and Sustainability program, I was very excited to hear from industry experts about the challenges and opportunities in the field of sustainability.

One of the key takeaways from the panel discussion was the importance of taking a holistic approach to sustainability. Although there has been an increase in awareness about sustainability, the panelists emphasised the need to embed sustainable practices into all aspects of an organization, from operations to supply chain management to product design. They highlighted the importance of not only setting ambitious targets but also delivering on them. This requires regularly measuring, quantifying, and analyzing environmental impacts, and making continuous improvements. The discussion broadened my horizons about the different sectors of this field and the various roles available within them, from product design to reporting and analytics. It sparked my interest in some of the topics discussed such as carbon reporting and life cycle assessments which I hope to explore further.

The panelists also shared their views on some ongoing debatable issues such as the use of carbon offsets and addressing climate justice. They acknowledged the complexity surrounding the use of carbon offsets in a net-zero strategy, however, they emphasized the need for transparency and accountability that is required to validate them. The discussion also helped me understand the importance of creating new jobs while transitioning towards sustainable solutions to ensure climate justice for those who are affected by the climate crisis. Additionally, they pointed out the impact of geopolitical events such as Brexit, the Ukraine War, and inflation on the sustainability movement. It was interesting to hear their perspectives on how these wider issues and events affect sustainability efforts at an organizational level and how they can respond. The conversations helped me realise the importance of staying informed about the changing policies and the interdependence of various challenges.

Despite the challenges, the panel also highlighted the many opportunities for green jobs and innovative solutions across different sectors. It is important to have a positive and proactive approach to sustainability, focusing on the opportunities rather than just the challenges. Because every challenge has allowed for new and exciting roles in the sustainability space. The panelists also provided some valuable advice about the type of skills that these roles require. Above all, the industry is looking for people who are passionate, knowledgeable and have the ability to bring innovative and effective solutions to the table.

Overall, the panel discussion left me feeling inspired and motivated to introspect and explore my interests to start my career in sustainability. I have already started taking steps to lead me down this path. I am researching graduate programs and entry-level job opportunities in the field, and networking with professionals in the industry. In addition to my course modules, I am learning complementary courses to gain a deeper understanding of the issues and develop the necessary skills.

Attending the Sustainability Careers panel discussion was a truly enlightening experience for me and a good reminder to start working on a plan to land my desired role. It helped me gain a better understanding of the realities of the industry's challenges and opportunities. I am excited to see where this journey takes me, and I look forward to contributing to the sustainability movement in my future career.

Neha Oka is an MSc Global Strategy and Sustainability student (2022-23)