Tips on a career in business sustainability

Here’s an interesting post from Simon Propper at Context on working in this rapidly evolving field.

His tips for spotting the better corporate positions include:

1) Look for a short reporting line to the CEO.

2) Check the CEO’s speeches – any on sustainability?

3) Where does the potential position fit in? Be wary of positions in regions other than where the HQ is located because they often have insufficient influence.

4) Is there a contradiction between the core business and sustainability? Check the annual review as well as the CR report.

5) Are there significant sustainability issues? This is the opposite of the previous point. Problems too big or too small can be equally disempowering.

6) Who does the CR team report to and what is the senior decision making body? Look for clarity, seniority and engagement of the powerful operating functions of the company. (more below image)

                                                                                                        Gratuitous accompanying image: 
                                                                      Being a blue clone is no advantage, sorry

Some good stuff there.

I was chatting about this issue recently with a friend of mine who works in sustainability in a big bank.

We concluded that we both advise people who want to work in CR/Sustainability and ask our advice to seek alternative employment.

By that I mean we both believed the best way in was to get another job in a big company, get to know the business inside and out, preferably in different parts of the company, and then move sideways.

If I think of the best sustainability/CR executives that I know of, none of them came straight into the job. It’s too complex an area to be any good at it without decent experience in other areas of business.

You need to know a company or an industry before you can change and improve.

There are few shortcuts, usually.

If someone has only worked in comms/PR and then moved across, alarm bells starting ringing.

There’s still a lot of that about, unfortunately.

On the upside, if I think back to 2001, when I started in this game, the quality of CR executives is evolving and improving year by year.

Many now earn six figures. About time too.

(BT host a good cartoon about what you need to suceed. It’s too big to put on the blog.
Take a look at it here.)

1 Comment

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