What is the Demand for Purpose Careers?

Woman smiling while looking at laptop

Sustainable business practices have entered the mainstream over the past few years, meaning there is a growing demand for a skilled labor force that can meet the needs of these up and coming green operations.

Because of this, American companies are increasingly looking for people to fill new positions in the environmental industry–thus centering their business models around the triple bottom line of people, profits, and planet. As a result, a sustainability mindset is going to be crucial for leaders going forward.

From government departments that will require sustainability professionals to Fortune 1000 companies, the demand for graduates trained for sustainability careers is expected to increase over the next decade. Consumer awareness and new environmental regulations will soon make it necessary for any institution that has a large number of employees, a physical infrastructure, a vehicle fleet or another type of transportation network, a variety of equipment, and who procures goods and services on a large-scale to employ a sustainability manager.

Regardless of the sector you decide to work in, sustainability is a safe bet for incremental career growth. In fact, recent studies suggest that the rate of growth with jobs with “environmental compliance” as a keyword increased by nearly 25 percent since 2010, and jobs focusing on “energy efficiency” have grown by nearly 500 percent.

The sudden demand for green professionals reflects an increased interest in sustainability in the consumer community. Not only are customers increasingly concerned about supporting environmental causes, they also expect their business purchases to reflect their values.

“The skills of sustainability leadership are increasingly in demand as the economy shifts. Customers care about sustainability; for example, they press restaurant chains to offer meat produced without antibiotics,” U.S. News reports. “Insurance companies now take sustainability efforts into account as they underwrite policies for business. And industries that fail to take steps toward sustainability face increasing regulation.”

The sustainability boom also reflects changes in the modern workplace. As Forbes contributor Karl Moore notes, the rise of millennials in the workplace has only helped to make sustainability and purpose careers more relevant.

“Millennials are loyal to a job rather than an employer,” Moore writes. “Often Millennials are incredibly self-assured about their career potential. Their confidence only becomes swayed when their employer fails to provide them with a vision.”

Millennials are particularly attracted to this kind of work, as working in sustainability requires challenging systems, giving them newfound purpose in the workplace.

“Sustainability leaders are system thinkers: They recognize the complexity of things and they see the interdependence among many disparate parts that make up the whole,” U.S. News reports. “This conceptual framework…is well suited to fast changing, unpredictable market conditions that require flexibility and innovation. It’s a good fit with the expectations of the millennial workforce.”

Furthermore, millennials tend to thrive in a purpose driven environment as they have a keen awareness and are passionate about environmental values–seeing themselves as not only members of the community or work space, but also seeing their career from a global citizen’s perspective, and aim to do as little harm as possible when pursuing their career.

“Organizations who wish to prosper will focus more time on meaning at work, have an organizational purpose and contribution which gives people a sense of satisfaction and a genuine feeling that they are making the world a better place,” Moore writes.

Luckily the demand for these careers have risen greatly over the past decade. As Kevin Doyle writes, “Any institution that has a large number of people and a physical infrastructure that includes buildings, grounds, food service, a vehicle fleet, water/wastewater facilities, intensive use of energy, lots of equipment and appliances that use electricity, a transportation network, and the large-scale procurement of goods and services will eventually require a sustainability manager.”

In fact, Forbes author Ellen Weinreb notes that the demand has grown so much that current sustainability applicants are frequently leveraging multiple job offers. And many of these sustainability positions are opening up opportunities in the C-Suite.

“Placing a C-level executive at the helm of corporate sustainability efforts is a highly visible indicator of commitment to responsible business,” Weinreb writes, going on to say “The case for executive-level involvement is clear. To quote from the research, naming a [Chief Sustainability Officer] sends ‘a strong message, both internally and externally, that [a company is] serious about building excellence in the CSR area.”

Demand for these positions is certainly booming across the country, but there are certain areas of the country that will have a higher proportion of jobs in sustainability. Particularly, sustainability jobs in the technological sphere are plentiful in California and other western states like Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas.

Given the potential for growth in the sustainability overall, it’s likely that throughout the next decade, students will be able to find positions that match their interests, regardless of industry you desire to work. But what kind of jobs are available for those who are looking to enter fields rich with purpose?

Government and Nonprofit Sector

Those seeking a purpose career in sustainability would do well to pursue a career in the government and nonprofit sector. These positions, which are by and large policy focused, help individuals make a difference in a large way.

Though the application process is lengthy, the rewards are worthwhile. Sustainability experts can expect to spend their weeks dedicated to advocating for policy changes, advising congressmen, and even working in the field directly helping the environment by cleaning up polluted areas.

In fact, Coyne College studies indicate that some of the most desirable sustainability careers were in the government sector, with the National Parks Service being one of the most innovative and green-focused career paths one could pursue.

Schools and Colleges

Increasingly, schools and colleges are joining the sustainability bandwagon–slowly but surely adopting more sustainable practices. Not only does this help the environment, but it helps to lower costs for the university significantly over time.

Whether you work as a Sustainability Director, or work more hands-on in the day-to-day operations of green work at a university level, sustainability on school campuses is highly rewarding. Not only do these practices help the environment, but they also require a close connection to the student population, and can even inspire the next generation of environmental innovators.

Large Corporations

As consumers expect more ethical and sustainable products, corporations are having to quickly respond to the demands of the market. Whether working in marketing, brand management, product development, or leadership, there are a number of opportunities for sustainability experts to find gainful employment in the corporate world.

Not only does this help companies to turn a profit and keep their consumers satisfied, but it also makes them more likely to save money in the long haul–reducing energy consumption and cutting down on waste–all while being socially responsible.

There has been an influx of people wishing to find gainful employment that also has purpose. For millennials especially, finding fulfilling work is often more of a priority than finding a position with monetary value only. For those seeking a purpose driven career, sustainability is an attractive career option with almost infinite career growth. As consumers too become more aware, it’s likely that these positions will only continue to grow in relevance over time.

For those interested in a purpose driven career that will have lasting impacts on society and the environment, Marylhurst University’s MBA in sustainability provides students with a strong foundation to make a difference in a rapidly changing workforce.


1 http://www.coynecollege.edu/news-events/green-collar-jobs
2 https://www.usnews.com/opinion/economic-intelligence/2015/09/10/sustainability-skills-needed-for-21st-century-business
3 https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/jan/07/2015-prediction-sustainability-jobs-careers-employers
4 https://www.forbes.com/sites/karlmoore/2014/10/02/millennials-work-for-purpose-not-paycheck/#6c67f5276a51
5 https://www.experience.com/alumnus/article?channel_id=green&source_page=home&article_id=article_1208550373072
6 http://www.sustainabilitydegrees.com/blog/highest-paying-careers-in-sustainability/
7 http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/cleantech/mike_hower/here%E2%80%99s_what_it_takes_land_your_sustainability_dream_job
8 http://www.triplepundit.com/2016/01/6-sustainability-careers-havent-occurred-yet/