You Got A Sustainability Job, Now What?

career advice education sustainable fashion Dec 22, 2022

Oh my gosh, you did it! You landed that sustainability job you’ve been working so hard for and now comes the fun part - getting to work!

You may be looking around thinking “now what?” and that’s okay. Sometimes, it can be tricky knowing where to start. That’s why Derek, the former VP of Global Sustainability at Volcom, put together a few tips to help you kick off your new position. 

If you’re more of a visual learner, watch our video on this topic and be sure to leave us a comment with any questions or thoughts you have on pursuing a career in sustainability.

Congratulate Yourself 

Now that you’ve gotten this new job, make sure you take some time to congratulate yourself. It’s not easy to land a sustainability position at a company and you’re one of the lucky few that gets to work directly on improving how the business is run.

As you get adjusted to your new role, start exploring who in the company has already been working on sustainability initiatives and who’s passionate about sustainability. No matter their experience level, these will be the people you can come to rely on. 

It’s also important to make connections with people outside of your company. Make connections with other sustainability leads at your competitors’ offices or try reaching out to people outside of your company’s market segment. Maybe you work for a performance wear company - try connecting with people in the outdoor industry. 

You get the point, no matter what market segment your company specializes in, everyone in the apparel and footwear industry pretty much uses the same materials.

Now that you’ve got your allies and made your connections, it’s time to start looking around at what work has already been done and what needs to be accomplished.

Take Inventory

Before you can start your sustainability strategy, you need to take a look at what work has already been accomplished and what’s in progress.

This varies from company to company, but most of the companies we work with have some preexisting sustainability work that they’re looking to further develop or expand on. It’s important for you to know where your company stands and how you can make the most use of your time and resources. Unfortunately, we all have a budget, so we can’t do everything all at once!

One of the best ways to find out where your company stands is to ask around different departments. The product teams may be working on sourcing preferred materials or maybe the marketing team is developing a new way of communicating sustainability to consumers. You never know unless you ask! 

Now that you have a pretty good idea of where the company stands and where you want to go, we can finally get to work on our strategy.

Dive into Supply Chain

One of the best places to start (this is where we recommend every company start!) is to dive into your supply chain.

Our supply chains are a lot more complicated than we’ve come to know them - we have to consider the energy, water, materials, emissions, and people associated with each phase of production. 

Ideally, your company should have complete traceability throughout the supply chain. This is rarely the case, but it’s a good goal to work on! We have a separate blog post all about traceability versus transparency that can help explain why traceability is one of our most pressing concerns in the apparel industry. 

When looking at the supply chain, think “who, what, where, and how”. If you have strong traceability throughout your supply chain, you should be able to answer these four questions:

  • Who made each part of this product?
  • What was used to make this product?
  • Where was each part of this product made?
  • How was each part of this product made?

It sounds a little daunting, but this is the best way to find issues in your supply chain. After all, we can’t just focus on sustainability matters at HQ - we need to reach into the furthest part of our supply chain and work our way from there, cleaning up as we go. 

Congratulations on landing your new sustainability role - we know you’re going to kill it! Don’t be afraid to ask questions and remember to keep pushing for sustainability, no matter how much pushback you may get. 

If you have any questions about sustainability careers, connect with us at [email protected] or DM us on Instagram. We look forward to hearing from you!

See you soon,


#keeplearning #sustainability #careeradvice #sustainablejob

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