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Jobs for the planet

There’s increasing demand for ethical and environmental careers says Simon Birch, in his latest Inside View article.


Ethically dodgy companies aren’t only bad for the environment, they’re also bad at attracting good employees.

In a recent study, 67% of 16-24-year olds, the so-called Generation Z, said that a key factor when they were deciding which company to work for was how much a company was engaging with environmental and sustainability issues.

“The survey suggests that genuinely sustainable companies will attract and retain top global talent or risk potential employees, particularly those in the early stages of their career, voting with their feet for an employer that gives them a sense of purpose,” says Brad Blundell from sustainability consultants Anthesis who conducted the research.

Sam Mckee from, an online recruitment platform which specialises in jobs with a positive environmental or social purpose, agrees with Blundell that young people now are increasingly looking for ethically aware jobs:

“We’re seeing a significant increase in usage of the site and mostly this is from young people and recent graduates.” Mckee, who previously worked in mainstream recruitment, launched the site 12 months ago in response to the growing demand for ethically driven careers.

“Young people are now increasingly asking potential employers what they do for the environment and what their corporate social responsibility policies are,” says McKee who uses Ethical Consumer to screen all the companies advertising jobs on the site. “Plus, I genuinely think that Generation Z have got much more of a social conscience.”

“Climate change and the other big global environmental issues are definitely driving this increase in interest in these issues which in turn is leading to a demand for more ethical ways of doing business,” adds McKee.

People planting small bush

Ethical jobs are a competitive sector

Getting a job in the environmental sector, especially in nature conservation, however, can be extremely competitive, says David White from which was launched by White almost 20 years ago.

The situation is now being eased somewhat by the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, the government’s £40 million post-Covid recovery initiative which is boosting grassroots conservation projects across England.

Despite this, the market for hands-on nature conservation jobs remains tight. “There are always more people wanting a job in conservation than there are jobs,” says White.

Tips for getting an ethical or environmental job

“If you can, get a relevant qualification in the field and then get experience which you can usually get by volunteering with an environmental organisation. Also, build a network, write a blog and communicate your passion,” says David White.

But what if you don’t have an environmental background but still want to work in this sector? Well don’t give up hope as McKee believes that you don’t necessarily have to have an environmental specialism such as a renewable energy engineering qualification to get on the ethical career ladder:

“What we’re encouraging people to think about is that if they work for the right employer, then it doesn’t matter what their specialism is, they can still be contributing their skills for good. So, for example you can be an accountant and work for Friends of the Earth, or a human resources person and work for Good Energy,” says Sam McKee.

David White agrees with McKee in that many skills are transferable to the environmental and ethical sector:

“If you’re an IT specialist there are some really innovative environmental start-ups which could use your skills plus all conservation organisations always need IT back-up as well as digital marketing skills,” says White.

“The environmental job sector is definitely becoming more mainstream and there are more jobs out there,” adds White whose website has now got 30% more jobs being advertised than in 2019.

“The drive to net zero carbon and mitigating climate change has also helped focus a lot of people’s minds which in turn is helping to boost the environmental jobs market,” concludes White.