People who work in Sustainability are special


There’s a special kind of person who works in the Sustainability sector but does that mean there are special issues facing them at work too?
Look around at your friends in jobs outside sustainability and they can struggle with work life balance, with self-confidence, with progression, with getting permanent employment and these things are true in the world of sustainability too but are there particular challenges for sustainability?
From my experience, I would suggest there are some.
Facing Change
We’re all used to the idea of living in a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) but your average person doesn’t make it their business to look head on at this every day. Depending on your precise role in sustainability you are likely to be constantly considering the effects of climate change or species loss or contamination of water, air or land and then can be pretty stressful if not depressing.
Fighting your corner
It’s not unusual to have to ‘fight your corner’ for your particular part of the business whether that’s keeping the budget or raising the profile of your team, but if you work in sustainability, it’s not about personal success or security, you are trying to keep your team well-funded and respected in order to make an impact on your company, your society and the world. If you don’t succeed you can take your ‘failure’ personally and that can have a knock-on effect for you.
Taking the work home
We all know people in all sectors who ‘take work home with them’ either literally or ‘in their heads’ but for people in sustainability the lines are blurred; everything you eat, the way you travel, the holiday you plan is influenced by your concern for a sustainable world. So you can find it more difficult to get the rest and separation you need and that can be tiring.
Team work
Every team needs to pull together whatever their function but a sustainability team may be under even more pressure. Part of their role, whether it’s in the job description or not, is to walk the walk, to campaign or be an advocate for sustainability. Your team will be scrutinized and more than others, each element, whether energy reduction, resource management or sustainable pipelines has to complement each other not compete with each other. If you can’t support each other you’ll be struggling rather than forging ahead.
What do you think?
Do you think working in the sustainability sector presents specific challenges? Are there challenges I’ve missed out? What about job security, influencing the leadership, work life balance, burn out, scope creep, skill levels…? Leave a comment below and let’s have a conversation.

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