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Sustainability will be key to jobs in future, not just tech

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Planet, people, profit: The 3Ps of the triple bottom line approach, which forms the core of sustainable business operations, are more intertwined and inseparable today than they ever have been in the past. Natural calamities, global warming & governance issues are impacting reputations & businesses, along with heightened shareholder & consumer activism, and increased regulatory scrutiny. As a result, enterprises are compelled to take a strong, hard look at the way they conduct their businesses and make sweeping changes in a bid to future-proof themselves.
An example of the way in which the landscape is changing can be found in the banking system. The RBI recently proposed to integrate climate-related risks into its practice of monitoring the stability of the financial system, and modelling climate risk scenarios to identify vulnerabilities. This could imply that banks and financial institutions would need to chalk out new frameworks to imbibe climate change-related concerns into their credit decisions and risk management functions.
Globally, communities & corporations are re-evaluating priorities and redefining purpose on individual & collective levels. There has been a conscious crossover to a value-addition approach, which goes beyond profits and pay checks. Champions of climate change, software engineers going back to their villages to start organic farming, startup founders obsessed with leveraging technology to solve the problem of access to financial services, and teachers imparting education to underprivileged students are the real-life heroes of today. To them, “why we do” matters as much as “what we do”.
Consequently, ESG (environmental awareness, social responsibility, and good governance) has become the focal point of the lens through which governments, corporates and individuals are looking at their day-to-day jobs and decision-making.
Sustainable thinking
It is becoming increasingly clear that companies that tend to do well on ESG also fare better in terms of business and financial performance. Stakeholders, including employees, want to associate with sustainable organisations, and there is a marked social shift towards empowerment, fulfilment and pursuing purpose.
Businesses are responding to this behaviour by putting sustainability at the centre of multi-faceted efforts. These range from appointing a chief sustainability officer, incorporating sustainability goals in job roles, committing to net carbon zero targets, cause marketing, investing, and divesting with sustainability in mind.
Jobs of the future
The focus on sustainability and aligning business with ESG goals open up new and interesting career avenues for India’s young demographic dividend. To stand a good chance for a career in sustainability, individuals can work on improving their understanding of the industry sector that they want to contribute to as part of a career in sustainability. Tracing the evolution of the sector, knowing the regulatory changes, understanding how financial institutions and other ecosystem participants — including investors — are viewing the sector, and their expectations of companies to take progressive steps as part of ESG goals would be essential in building a career in sustainability. Additionally, good research and writing skills, ability to engage with multiple stakeholders & influence agenda, and exercising strong analytical skills to offer pre-emptive solutions are must-haves. Jobs of the future will not only be steeped in technology, but also sustainability. Given the tilt toward fostering a circular economy — with the convergence of information, social impact, economics & emerging technology — an understanding of sustainability is an essential requisite for a career in any conceivable field today. Be it banking, manufacturing, retail, IT, FMCG, logistics or tourism& hospitality. These green jobs of the future will also need existing employees, as well as those joining the workforce in the future, to upskill and reskill themselves to stay relevant to the times. Universities and business schools need to tweak their curriculum to build in sustainability as a core module within a chosen academic stream. Else, the pipeline of specialised resources such as carbon reduction managers, green data scientists, sustainable facilities directors and energy efficiency officers would remain dry.
Understanding Sustainability as a career choice
It is encouraging that millennials and Gen-Z are thinking about sustainability as a career option, but building a detailed understanding of the practice that goes beyond the buzzword is essential. While environmental conservation is one element of it, sustainability is a larger movement to make business processes self-sufficient and independent in the long term, without causing harm to their allied, complimentary systems. It could mean green buildings that are energy-efficient in construction, a solid & leak-proof vaccine delivery system, or public policy designed to promote equality across socio-economic segments of society. An excellent place for an aspiring sustainability professional to start understanding this field is a perusal of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and associated targets.
A career in sustainability can be satisfying and rewarding. It also demands critical, holistic attention to detail, risk assessment and impact analysis of every decision. It is imperative that anyone considering a career in this field is up to date on current trends, has a keen sense of data analytics and can predict what could happen next. Most importantly, you need to practice what you preach and aspire to a more sustainable way of living.
The writer is president & CHRO, Crisil

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