How has sustainability changed the careers landscape for Business School graduates and how can we prepare for the future?

With the changing regulatory landscape and introduction of mandatory sustainability reporting standards in accounting, sustainability has become ubiquitous in the careers landscape for graduates in this sector.  The University of Bristol Business School is developing ways to make the curriculum in the Business School future-oriented, to prepare students to be impactful leaders and decision-makers in sustainability-related areas in their future careers.

At an event hosted by the University of Bristol Business School, the co-chairs of the University of Bristol Business School Sustainability Committee were joined by Chris Preist, University Academic Director of Sustainability, Tamzyn Smith, Business school student sustainability champion, along with Business School academics and other industry guests.

Here are our main takeaways:

Shift from profit-driven business model to purpose-driven

The traditional view of Business centred on financial profit, but today it encompasses a company’s responsibility for its environmental impacts and dependencies. The expanding recognition of corporate social and environmental responsibilities diversifies career prospects for graduates, particularly in sustainability, compliance, governance, and socially responsible business practices. Furthermore, due to urgency of environmental challenges, legal and regulatory shifts and social pressure sustainability is becoming relevant to all careers, as businesses across various sectors seek to integrate sustainable practices into their operations to ensure compliance. This highlights the importance of having ‘green lenses’ as students step into any profession to continue driving the shift from profit-driven business model to be more purpose-driven.

Green skills and understanding

While not every graduate is going to be a sustainability specialist, sustainability literacy is becoming core to in finance, accounting, consulting, logistics and more. Therefore, having the necessary green skills and understanding is versatile and applicable in diverse career paths.

One example of a green skill is the awareness of current issues. Due to the dynamic nature of sustainability and climate change, students should strive to be aware of current industry sustainability trends and concerns such as new SBTI targets and CSRD sustainability reporting standard or any greenwashing news.

Another example of green skill is the triple bottom line thinking that considers people, planet and profit equitably. This holistic perspective is valuable in decision-making and problem-solving. This includes teaching students to ask critical questions when it comes to analysing a financial report or corporate sustainability reporting. Ultimately, sustainable thinking positions individuals to lead in sustainability-related initiatives from their early careers onwards.

Sustainability and employability

Having sustainability in the degree title or taking sustainability-related modules demonstrates specialized knowledge and skills in environmental sustainability. This increases student employability for sustainability-focussed roles as this expertise is increasingly sought after by employers across various industries, who seek verification of candidates’ sustainability expertise.

The Business School plays an important role in encouraging sustainable thinking among students by providing a specific sustainability pathway for courses such as accounting and management. To develop a meaningful curriculum, sustainable teaching should be integrated as a core aspect throughout a programme unit or degree, rather than being added on as secondary to the main learning of module.

Sustainability remains an evolving area with a rapidly changing regulatory landscape and industry trends. Therefore, an awareness of current issues and industry concerns increases employability by aligning graduates with business’ needs. This is because stakeholders such as customers, investors and communities are increasingly expecting companies to demonstrate responsible and sustainable practices. Employing graduates with sustainability credentials and skills helps organizations meet stakeholders’ expectations.

Furthermore, equipping students with green skills and understanding through formal and informal learning exposes students to opportunities for positive impact on the environment. The opportunities for growth and impact is an important element for fulfilment in graduates’ future careers, and in turn for maintaining drive and positivity.

Blog written by Syndy Liew Pei Xin.

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