Green sector - your questions answered

Careers in the green sector: your questions answered

Thank you for submitting your questions for our alumni leaders working in the green sector with experience spanning digital marketing, policy, sustainability, climate change and social enterprise.

Read on below to find out how to stand out in the recruitment process, deciding on your specialism, growth markets in the sector and the best way to get into the sector itself.

Our leaders:

Planning and policy

Dr. Richard Munang (PhD Environmental Change and Policy, 2008) - Africa Regional Climate Change Coordinator, UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

Connect with Richard on LinkedIn

Richard Munang
As someone early in my career, what advice can you give me for standing out in the recruitment process? There is a lot of focus on this area due to COP26 and I want to ensure that my interest comes across as genuine and embedded, as opposed to tokenism - From anonymous

From my experience, standing out in recruitment comes down to 4 key aspects – competence, versatility, innovativeness, and passion.

These attributes draw from one core fundamental – clarity of vision. What vision do you have of the career and, more specifically, the job you are eyeing? What change do you want to see? How will that change you desire to see provide benefit to humanity? How will it be delivered in an enterprising dimension or a way that generates economic value?

Once you have the above figured out, you will come out as genuine and bring value to the table of whoever you will be interviewing for. So take the job you are applying for as a personal business and look to offer value and achieve a vision, don’t look at what you are getting back.

Did you always envisage working for a large organisation like the UN? Did they approach you or did you apply? What tips would you give someone hoping to work for a large organisation like the UN in the green sector? - From anonymous

I grew up seeing crop failure and the devastation it caused us as a family. Over time, community, province, country and later the entire continent and how to resolve this was the source of passion.

I never envisaged working for the UN. I, however, had a clear vision of what I was passionate to do – devising solutions to productivity in key sectors of economies – in this case, the agro-value chain, which cuts across nearly all sectors of economies.

And climate change was what stood at the door as both the risk multiplier and an opportunity for solutions. I came across an online advertisement for jobs in this area in the UN. I applied initially for a very short assignment and passionately applied to offer value towards the clear vision I had long before I applied for the job. As far as tips – refer to my answer in point 1.

How can we avoid the UK and other European nations "exporting" our dirty manufacturing to developing countries as a way of appearing to reduce our environmental impact? - From William (Medicine, 1980)

The key is clarity of priorities on both sides. If the environment and inclusive accelerated development are the primary priority, there will be no “dirty” manufacturing to export. If fidelity to the Paris Agreement is the priority, there will be no “dirty” manufacturing to export.

Digital marketing

Megan Stilwell (Psychology, 2018) - Digital Account Executive, Greenhouse Agency

Follow Megan on Twitter or Instagram

Megan Stilwell
I really enjoy CSR strategy and internal comms but currently am working in-house which gives the opportunity to focus in on specific topics more. However, this early on in my career it’s hard to get the internal CSR comms aspect of a job in-house, so my question is whether to think about agency work like at Greenhouse PR or use this time to focus on something I’m particularly passionate about in-house? - From Milly (Geography, 2021)

Hi Milly, thanks for this brilliant question. I’m going to do that annoying thing and say that I don’t think there is ever a right or wrong way to gain experience. If you have the opportunity to focus on something you’re passionate about, like you’re doing in-house, that’s great!

If you were to go to an agency, I’m not sure you’d get the right experience to work on CSR strategy specifically, because you’d be focussing on communicating to consumers or businesses as opposed to working on internal comms which is different. If you’re enjoying what you’re doing, stick with it, it’s so important to enjoy your work as it takes up the majority of our time.

How did you get into the green sector and what advice do you have for someone trying to find a place within this sector? - From Adam (Philosophy & Music, 2021)

Hi Adam, it’s lovely to hear from you. I knew that I wanted to work in sustainability, but l honestly had no idea how to work my way into the green space. So I spent many many months searching for an environmental group to join and I attended as many sustainable events as I could, as well as training online too.

Basically, I wanted to create a network of people in the green industry who would be able to signpost me to where I needed to go. So at every event, training session, web forum that I got involved in I asked to connect with people on LinkedIn or via email.

Eventually someone directed me to a social enterprise, called Catalyse Change, and through their summer camp, I got an internship. My top tip would be to connect with anyone you meet in sustainability and then ask them if they can put you in touch with more people…the snowball effect is brilliant!

Agricultural practice gets a lot of the blame for pollution. Some fair some not. The consumer market does not appear to pay the costs of enhanced environmental standards. Is this fair, or should the consumer pay? What are you view on the importation of produce to bypass legislation? - From Scott (Agriculture, 1995)

Hi Scott, thank you for questions. This is quite a complex issue, which I’m not expert on. But to answer your first question. I think that our perception of how much food costs has been skewed by agricultural subsidies, mass production and processing, to the point where we don’t understand the true value of items.

This is also evident in the fashion industry. I think the government could tax unsustainable and unhealthy products, to encourage people to purchase more sustainable and healthier products, in a similar way tot the sugary drinks tax.

I’d have to see a specific example of legislation having been bypassed by importation to answer this question. However, in terms of importing produce, this can actually be more environmentally sustainable. Take the often used example of the tomato. A tomato grown in the UK off-season, requires a specific temperature-controlled environment that is energy intensive. Whereas, a tomato grown at the same time of year, in a country that is warmer than the UK, wouldn’t need a manufactured environment and would be more energy efficient even after importation.

Sustainability and climate change

Sabrina Chiaretti (MSc Sustainability, 2016) - Air quality analyst, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Follow Sabrina on Instagram or connect with her on LinkedIn

Sabrina Chiaretti
How did you narrow down your area of specialism? Is your current area what you always wanted to focus on, but needed experience to get there, or was it trial and error until you found a specialism? - From anonymous

I stumbled across this very specialised career path. I had always wanted to specialise in the climate change field, but in my past role I was assigned more and more responsibilities that dealt with air quality and transport, and once I learnt about the air pollution crisis, I couldn’t ignore it anymore, and I have now been working in air quality for 3 years.

I learnt things on the job, my climate and sustainability degree did prepare me for this environmental role only to some extent.

What were your main takeaways from working in the public and private sectors within the green sector? What would be your main tips for the different ways to approach each when applying for roles? - From anonymous

The private and public sector are very different, and so is your role. Finances are among the main drivers in the private sector, in the public sector there is a much bigger purpose beyond every role. My main tips: before applying, think about whether you like the role and the organisation, how they can make you grow personally and professionally.

Research your employer and their competitors. Finally, a career in sustainability and climate is a career with a purpose, and those who work in the sector often live and breathe sustainability values in their private life, if so that is definitely and advantage, and something you want to show when you apply for a role.

Technology and entrepreneurship

Tabitha Wacera (MSc Sustainable Energy Engineering, 2016) - Founder at Storehouse (formerly Sustainable Water)

Connect with Tabitha on LinkedIn

Tabitha Wacera
I would like to ask how you set up your solar wells remotely from the UK? Do you have a local team internationally? What would be your advice on choosing the right local partners or team? What advice do you have on connecting your green sector idea/business to UK charities? - From Gabriella (Renewable Energy, 2010)

I do have international teams based in Kenya with plans to develop others in other countries. The right partners are those you trust. Personally, it has to be someone I have worked with before and can vouch for their work in those countries. Secondly, I like to have a known contact in a country before we engage any company or team.

Charities: It depends on your vision. My vision is to solve the water crisis. Consequently, I only work with UK charities that share the same vision and want to solve this problem sustainably in developing countries.

What do you predict are the biggest growth markets in terms of roles in the green sector? - From anonymous

When I am looking at growth opportunities, I look at policy as well as general trends in the energy market. Since decarbonization is one of the major shifts, the next two are decentralization and digitisation. We have already gone green and decentralised with the introduction of renewables to the current energy mix.

The biggest challenge and opportunity still remains in digitisation of the grid and consequently job opportunities will be there. There's a need for engineers who are both comfortable in the software and the hardware. Learning programming languages which are geared towards solving energy problems will be an asset.

What can we learn from some of the green sector innovations being led by some of the developing countries? - From anonymous

That carbon economies are not the only template for development. If developing countries followed the same exact development template that developed countries followed, the global warming temperature will reach 2 degrees in no time.

Since the trend in developed countries is decarbonisation of the energy mix, developing countries don't have to make the same mistakes. They can start building green economies from the get go. Building sustainably is foundational, it is not an additive to our marketing because it is the current thing.