Jobs for a Sustainable Future


In last week’s blog, Education for a Sustainable Future, I said that the promise of new or increased revenue-generating opportunities is not why most people join the program. Though this is true, it is also true that the future of opportunities for people trained in sustainable design is promising.

What trends are happening in the sustainability professions?

Ellen Weinreb, CEO of the Weinreb Group, a firm that recruits sustainability professionals, closely follows and reports on trends in sustainability professions, particularly in leading global companies. 

In her article Sustainability careers of the future require depth and breadth, she reports that: 

“The issues under the sustainability umbrella keep growing, and sustainability professionals’ responsibilities also have transformed, from tactical roles such as publishing reports and engaging stakeholders to more strategic roles such as change management and innovation.”

“These changes are seeding the demand for the corporate sustainability generalist: someone who sees the bigger picture, understands the trends affecting business, people and the planet, and has great management skills. In the past, I have written about essential skills for next-generation CSR leaders — including the ability to create capacity, catalyze conversations and behavior change and collaborate across the business, industry and sectors. A BSR report I wrote about earlier this year underscores the need for sustainability leaders who embrace new roles as value creators, futurists and change agents.”

In another article, CSOs weigh in: How political polarization is affecting corporate sustainability, she reports that: 

“Corporate sustainability continues, even if political priorities change”

“Many CSOs [Chief Sustainability Officers] told me these developments have highlighted the importance of corporate sustainability action — to maintain forward momentum even if policies are rolled back or political debate creates a deadlock.”  

“One CSO “… has noticed a “doubling-down effect on sustainability in reaction to some aspects of the political trend.””

[You can find more articles by Ellen Weinreb on GreenBiz.]

In the GreenBiz Group’s 2019 State of Green Business, they report:

“Circular economy, renewable energy, supply chain — these are just a few of many areas where sustainability is being embedded and pushing organizations further along toward a more resilient and profitable future. As sustainability is embedded ever deeper inside companies’ strategies, operations and product lines, so, too, is the sustainability profession itself.”

“It is a time of great opportunity for those interested in working on corporate sustainability issues”

So why sustainable design

The Harvard Business Review article Design Thinking Comes of Age, explains:

“There’s a shift under way in large organizations, one that puts design much closer to the center of the enterprise. But the shift isn’t about aesthetics. It’s about applying the principles of design to the way people work.”

“This new approach is in large part a response to the increasing complexity of modern technology and modern business.” 

“I could list a dozen other types of complexity that businesses grapple with every day. But here’s what they all have in common: People need help making sense of them. Specifically, people need their interactions with technologies and other complex systems to be simple, intuitive, and pleasurable.”

“A set of principles collectively known as design thinking—empathy with users, a discipline of prototyping, and tolerance for failure chief among them—is the best tool we have for creating those kinds of interactions and developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture.”

In the 2019 State of Green Business, they also share this:

“Cisco Director of Supply Chain Sustainability and Circular Economy Lisa Brady is seeing applicants from more dual-degree programs such as product design and environmental studies, or joint engineering and sustainability degrees: “We think those combinations are powerful as we seek employees who can help us execute on our sustainability and circular economy goals.

Where can I find a job?

Some of our graduates used the program to develop and launch new sustainable business ideas, and others use their MASD to move up in their organizations and work on sustainability issues. For those interested in finding a job, we keep a running list of relevant job postings. Where might you look for a position as a sustainability professional? In addition to the usual sites (e.g. LinkedIn, Indeed) , you might want to explore these resources: Reconsidered’s Jobs page, WorkforGood, DesignGigsforGood, Idealist, and GreenJobsNetwork.

If you’re still wondering whether an MA in Sustainable Design is right for you, follow-up on the articles and reports above, do some research, then contact me. I’d love to learn more about you, your goals, and if this program is a good fit for you.

Denise DeLuca / Former Director

Denise DeLuca is the Director of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program. She was co-founder of BCI: Biomimicry Creative for Innovation, a network of creative professional change agents driving ecological thinking for radical transformation. Denise is author of the book Re-Aligning with Nature: Ecological Thinking for Radical Transformation, which was illustrated by MASD alum Stephanie Koehler. She also teaches with the Amani Institute.

Denise’s previous roles include Education Director for the International Living Future Institute, Project Manager for Swedish Biomimetics 3000, and Outreach Director for The Biomimicry Institute. Denise is a licensed civil engineer (PE) and holds a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering with a focus on modeling landscape-scale surface and groundwater interactions.  In addition, Denise is a Biomimicry Fellow and a member of the Advisory Council of The Biomimicry InstituteBoard Member of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP), on the editorial board of the Journal of Bionic Engineering, and an Expert with Katerva. Denise is based in Oregon.

contact:  [email protected]