How to focus your career on sustainability

How can I build a career in sustainability?


Students often approach Mairi-Jane Fox, Ph.D., with that question — and for a good reason. As the director of Regis University’s Sustainable Economic and Enterprise Development (SEED) Institute, Fox guides students who want to become positive agents of sustainability through academic programs.

“I would say there are so many avenues to make an impact, and it depends on what resonates for you,” Fox said. “It depends on your personality, your passions and where you feel comfortable.”

Fox offered the following advice to student looking to create a career centered on sustainability.

Make an impact through your career interests.

Whether you’re interested in working for a nonprofit, in the sciences, in education, in healthcare, or in business, Fox said, sustainability can become a major part of your career. In a nonprofit, for instance, workers can become catalysts for change by bringing awareness to issues that need solutions. In a corporation, workers can bring a sustainability lens to each level of decision-making.

“You could work in a convening role, which is the role that brings different sectors of the economy and society together to talk about sustainability,” she said. “You could also work in science and be providing scientific research to help move the needle.”

Enhance your sustainability credentials.

Before building career traction, Fox shared that there are tactical tools that can enhance your appeal to an employer who is looking for sustainability expertise. For example, taking a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) training which focuses on being prepared to create sustainability reports. Additionally, she said, students could consider taking the Fundamentals of Sustainable Accounting (FSA) exams, which are targeted toward professionals in accounting, investment analysis, and corporate sustainability. Regis is hoping to offer a weekend long prep course for this exam next school year.

Both of those pathways, Fox said, signal to the job market that you are prepared to take on sustainability issues.

Consider academic programs focused on sustainability.

“I found students asking me questions about sustainability in every kind of class,” Fox said. “And I wanted to gather those students in community with each other.”

At Regis, this led to the creation of the SEED Undergraduate Fellowship Program, a year-long sustainability leadership program that challenges students to explore diverse perspectives, create meaningful relationships, develop a critical consciousness and serve as positive agents of sustainability.

“They co-design their curriculum,” Fox said. “We decide what, collectively, we want to read about, and then we decide on an impact project.”

By the end of the program, students have an impact project, practical leadership tools, extensive sustainability knowledge and connections with each other and other sustainability practitioners who may be potential employers.

The biggest impact, Fox said, will come from students who are advocating to move industries forward.

“Change is only possible if we have people from every industry engaging in these conversations, she said. “It doesn't belong just to somebody that works in sustainability. It’s embedded through our entire economy and our entire society and that's how we see systemic change.”

Anderson College of Business and Computing is creating the next generation of business leaders — stewards of society and sustainability. Contact our Admissions team to learn more about how our programs can help you build a career in sustainability. 

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