Pivoting towards a sustainability career

by Virginia Cinquemani

Remote work desk in sustainability

Photo: Juliette Sims

I've had the good fortune, of working within the sustainability sector for the past 15 years, I've looked at the sector both from an external point of view (as a relationship manager handling thousands of sustainability professionals), and an internal point of view as a built environment sustainability consultant. I have witnessed my fellow #sustainability sector consultants struggling to communicate with their clients.

In particular, articulating clear and concise sustainability messages to delivery maximum results. Many are cornered by climate deniers, and been accused of selling hot air, or accused of being dreamy hippies. Many sustainability professionals are unable to use their assertiveness and leadership skills to push and sell their ideas ethically.

Photo: James Sando

The clash between our values and the reality of the business world is often titanic.

Over my years of experience, I’ve noticed a lack of training courses, in particular; specific coaching aimed at supporting sustainability professionals to make their voices stronger.

In 2018, I decided to take this issue into my own hands, and created a start-up (Green Gorilla), specifically aimed at empowering sustainability professionals. Encouraging and supporting them to become more impactful change-marketeers via tailored courses and coaching.

Every aspect of life is now and will be forever affected by the Corona Virus pandemic so how can sustainability professionals adapt?

As our world has turned upside down, we need to develop and strengthen one of the key skills of a successful sustainability professional: Resilience.

We don’t know how or when the world will start fully functioning again; whether the reliance on the same old inefficient way of living will continue, or whether companies will push production to the limit to make up for the lost revenue. Governments may take advantage of the incidental lower emissions of these lockdown months and decide to implement a different paradigm and divert investments from #fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources. This would be a positive outcome for our planet from such a traumatic situation.

Regardless we need to be prepared and hit the ground running.

In order to do that, we need to fully understand what replenishes us and what drains us. The stronger we are as individuals (and that means making time for our own priorities and values, and our mental and physical health), the better we will start the new post COVID era.

We need to keep abreast of changes in our sector, read sustainability-specific news, join or better still create new movements which encourage togetherness, debates and action plans to respond to public consultations.

When Winds Change Opportunity Knocks

Photo: Julia Smith

As a species, we are so hardwired to see change as a threat that it is hard to spot the opportunities at difficult times like the ones we are living right now. However, it is possible to be open and positive about change without, of course, discounting the suffering that millions of people are going through. If you are a professional or amateur advocate in any area of conscious sustainability as a change-maker, from clean beauty, sustainable fashion or vegan lifestyle to environmental championing, renewable energy and EV transport.

Here are my five tips which may help you as a sustainability professional or amateur change-maker see the silver lining of the pandemic and become a leader in the new era approaching us.

1. Look at any setback and spot three good things that came from it. In time, you’ll always manage to see opportunities where others see only negativity.

2. Try not to alienate others who are not of like-mind in the areas of sustainability, by pushing it hard on them on the ethical basis. Instead, listen to them with respect; learn what interest them, let them speak. And then suggest sustainable alternatives to their issue and sector.

3. Lead by example. Think about your own life and how it can be made more sustainable in everyday living choices. It doesn’t have to cost more, but even small changes will make more difference than you think by creating a ripple effect on others.

4. The world is moving towards a more sustainable future. Learn all the benefits connected to adopting this in your industry, especially economically. Think of the waste, energy and water savings. Think of the reputation enhancement. Think of the market competitiveness. Businesses respond to financial understandings far better than to the ethical arguments.

5. Keep curious. “Curiosity is the engine of achievement” author Ken Robinson says. The more you are eager to learn, the more satisfaction you’ll find in your sustainability career, and the more you’ll manage to find creative, low impact solutions to old problems. That’s what sustainability is all about.

As individuals, we have the power to make a difference, but together we are the change.

Virginia Cinquemani is a contributor of Sustainable Diva mag, author of SustainABLE and is founder of The Green Gorilla Consultants Ltd. A professional training and coaching business for sustainability career professionals. She lives in London, United Kingdom.

SustainABLE is available to purchase on Amazon