Companies undertaking new digital projects, implementing new software into their operations, and experimenting with new technologies led to the birth of the buzzword ‘digital transformation’.
Digital transformation grew rapidly year-on-year; global spending on digital transformation rose by around $350 billion between 2017 and 2020.
The trend created countless jobs. And now, we could see the same with ‘sustainability transformation’, as companies begin to adapt their strategies to bring sustainability to the core of their business.
This new global shift is the subject of ESSEC Business School’s new MSc in Sustainability Transformation.
The sustainability tipping point
ESSEC has launched its new MSc program with the first intake starting at the end of August 2022. The school aims to prepare students for sustainability transformation, which it believes is set to explode over the coming years.
Program director Alexis de La Tour du Pin (pictured) argues that, while sustainability has been part of government agendas and business objectives for some time now, it’s been more of an afterthought than a central theme.
But that’s all about to change, he says. In the corporate world, 90% of executives say sustainability is important to their future, and 60% have dedicated sustainability strategies. A good start that will only increase in the coming years, Alexis thinks.
Companies are also under pressure to respond to the more eco-minded. Scenes of wildfires, floods, and 50 degree heat waves have sparked a change among consumers; 73% now report that they want to live more sustainably.
“We’re at a tipping point,” Alexis explains. “More and more companies are pledging to get to carbon neutrality by 2030 or 2040, and everybody wants to work in sustainability or align their strategy around it.”
The emerging sustainability transformation job market
Just as digital transformation has done over the last decade, sustainability transformation is likely to bring with it a wealth of new jobs and opportunities.
Already, specialist sustainability consulting firms like AccountAbility, Salterbaxter, and BSR are advising companies on how to shift their strategies to become more sustainable. They’re teaching organizations how to circularize supply chains, measure their biodiversity impact, and adjust their business objectives to account for the environment.
“We are seeing more and more specialized consultancies appearing,” Alexis explains, “all of a sudden they have tons of roles available because they have too much demand from clients.”
The next wave of opportunities will come within organizations themselves. As sustainable practice takes a more prominent role, corporate social responsibility (CSR) teams will expand headcounts and, more importantly, have greater influence within organizations, Alexis says.
But changes to the job sector are likely to go beyond just the appearance of new roles. It’s also likely that established jobs will have to adapt to incorporate a larger focus on sustainability.
Marketing managers may have to promote the carbon neutrality of their product to a more aware consumer. Similarly, accountants might be required to record a company’s carbon footprint, alongside its revenue.
“All of these roles are going to be augmented,” says Alexis, “so they’re about the people and the planet, not just the profit.”
This combination of new roles alongside more sustainability-led traditional jobs means the employment market will be favorable to graduates with sustainability skills and expertise in the coming years.
An MSc in Sustainability Transformation helping to make an impact
ESSEC aims to prepare students for the potential sustainability transformation job market boom with a career-focused curriculum.
The program teaches fundamental management skills such as negotiation, along with specialist concepts like ESG investing and sustainability marketing. Based on their interests, students can specialise in one of six majors, including Circular Economy, and Climate & Biodiversity.
ESSEC also has strong industry connections and will provide talent and career days, along with consulting projects to help students develop their network. Outside their courses, students will benefit from a range of sustainability-focused student associations helping them to make an impact before graduation.
Combined, the curricular and extracurricular activities will provide students with the skills, expertise, and network to become leaders in the sustainability transformation market.
To ensure they can have an impact after securing a job, the program also has a large focus on change management with modules like Leading Change and Transformation, and Creative Facilitation for a Changing World.
ESSEC aims to prepare students to bridge the gap between the science of sustainability and the everyday business practices of companies.
“Everything that we’ve tried and implemented in the last decade was insufficient, so we need to invent a new playbook,” explains Alexis.
“In my view the goal of this playbook is to profoundly change organizations and that’s what we’re going to teach students.”
During learning expeditions, field visits, and thematic courses, students will see how sustainability is being practiced by NGOs and within alternative living, sustainable campuses. Alexis hopes this will inspire students to come up with innovative ideas they can bring to their new jobs.
“We need to develop students with immense creativity,” he says. “A lot of us are too experienced and we have trouble imagining new solutions, and that’s where some freshness of point of view will be useful.
“We want to spark some creativity and spark some hope when students see people actively trying to change our world.”
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