How to Get Your Dream Sustainability Job in the Apparel IndustryOct 13, 2022
You might be wondering how those people in your organization got positions like VP of Sustainability or Head of Global Sustainability, or even CSO if your company is lucky enough to be structured to have that role. These people may have gotten a Bachelor’s degree in Business or Economics, maybe they worked their way up from a role as a designer or from the marketing department, or maybe - just maybe - they have a degree in sustainability or environmental sciences. But, one thing is certain - sustainability roles will become the new normal.
So, what can you do to help set yourself apart from the crowd? Let’s get into how you can get your dream sustainability job in the apparel industry!
If you prefer visual content, we have a YouTube video on this same topic. After watching, make sure you drop us a comment with your thoughts or tips for people looking to start a career in sustainability.
Some of you may have some knowledge and understanding about sustainability and climate change, but there’s a good portion of you who are just starting to learn about all of this stuff and it’s a lot to take in! I know that’s how I felt when I made the decision to center my career around sustainability - I thought I knew enough about sustainability, but as I started to dive deeper, my head was spinning. Why were we not taught about sustainability in school? That’s a topic for another day, but we have a video on that too :) .
If you’re in the same boat, don’t worry. As you learn more, it gets easier and you’ll start to see the connection between different topics and issues. However, this takes hard work and you have to take the time to do your research. Companies are looking for people who understand the language of sustainability like externalities, MRSLs, carbon accounting, extended producer responsibility, ESG reporting, and much more.
You could try to do this by scouring the internet for different sources and reputable outlets, but if you want more organized learning, check out our Academy of Action. This is our hub for professionals - across a variety of roles and value chain segments - to come together and discuss/solve our most pressing concerns. It’s a great place to start if you’re interested in a career in sustainability and it comes with a number of benefits.
Let’s say you’re already in an organization, but you want to incorporate sustainability into your role. How can you make that happen?
Change Behavior & Use Your Voice
If you’re in this position, one of the best places to start is to make changes in your personal life.
Maybe you’ll start composting at home, install solar panels, or switch to buying only organic, or you commit to buying only secondhand. However you slice it, making changes at home is one of the best ways to start engraining sustainability into every aspect of your life, including work.
As you start making changes at home, maybe you’ll start telling your coworkers about your efforts and that inspires them to start making changes too. Soon enough, you’re the go-to sustainability person within your brand. Use this as an opportunity to get your leadership involved, even if it starts with simple conversations about what you’d like to see the company or department doing. Lead by example.
This is a good way to get eyes on you and to position yourself for a promotion to a sustainability role, but before you get to that point you should make sure you’re well-versed in your pre-existing role.
Be Very Good at What You Already Do
Whatever department you’re in, you should know the ins and outs of your role before you can jump into a sustainability position. This may go without saying, but before you get that promotion to a sustainability role, you should feel confident in your abilities in your current position and have people who are willing to back you up.
If you’re not there yet, all hope is not lost, that just means you need to keep working to get to where you want to be. One of the best ways to do this is to engrain sustainability into your role or team. Start thinking about what small-scale changes you can make and how they might benefit your people or the department overall.
If you’re a designer, be vocal about reducing waste and suggest different ways this can be accomplished. If you’re in HR, suggest a sustainability training program for all employees. If you’re in IT, offer insight into how the company can save energy. Like Derek says, “whatever your role… you play a role!”
The last piece of advice we have ties into this as well, but now we’re going to start thinking on a larger scale.
Understand the Business Really Well
We’re turning up the heat a little - not only should you be really good at your current job, but you should also have a great understanding of the company overall.
Before you get into that sustainability role, you should have a clear understanding of the brand culture, margins and budgets, product lifecycle, supply chain, employee sentiment, company performance and goals, customer expectations, and more. You won’t be an expert in all of these areas, but the important thing is that you’re open to learning about them.
Sustainability has been shown to make companies more efficient and profitable, so if you can understand all these different layers of your brand and connect it back to sustainability, then you’re on the right track.
Getting a sustainability role looks different to everyone and we all have our own journeys, but we hope you keep these in mind as you get closer and closer to your goal. Don’t forget, you can always tap into our resources to help you along the way too, or shoot us an email at [email protected] - we’d be happy to help.
Once again, if you’re interested in getting more sustainability insights, check out our Academy of Action. We would love to help you achieve your goals and we hope to see you there!
Thanks for joining me!
#keeplearning #sustainability #careeradvice
Top 35 Things to Know if you're learning about Sustainability in the Apparel Industry. Have you downloaded the guide yet?
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