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Green Is The New Black

Insights on sustainability jobs, challenges and concerns from youth in Singapore

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sustainability jobs

Work occupies much of our waking lives. Since we are most likely going to be at the grind until we officially call it a day, why not do something that we already love and embrace this enjoyment for the rest of our lives? And for those who love sustainability, how do we get a job in it? Journey Through a Green Purpose, through a series of online webinars, set out to find answers to these questions. 

We have seen for ourselves living examples who enjoy what they are doing for a living and beyond that, they are also making a positive impact in the environment and improving the lives of people around them. Well, this not only sounds like playing superhero as a career, it is indeed one. So what exactly are these superheroes up to?

Over the course of three meaningful weeks from 26 February to 13 March 2021, some 600 like-minded individuals came together at the Journey Through A Green Purpose (JTAGP) events to receive first-hand insights and perspectives from the forerunners in the sustainability industry. Across a total of 12 interactive and enriching webinars, the participants were privileged to have had a glimpse of the rigorous journeys undertaken by the sustainability role models and their take on embarking on a highly meaningful career in this burgeoning industry.

To further support the future development of activities in the sustainability field, a landscape survey was conducted across a 1-month span whereby 70 responses were collected. All of the respondents, comprising a majority of youths between the ages of 22 to 30, indicated that JTAGP was a good launch point in understanding the sustainability industry better. Here is a summary of some of the key learnings. 

Getting started with a career in sustainability

Interestingly, many things in our lives happen by chance and they are often for a good reason, just like getting into a sustainability career for these distinguished speakers at JTAGP. Nonetheless, riding on chances alone does not guarantee success, at least for the sustainability industry. For one, project management and clear communication skills were highlighted by our veterans as vital attributes to excel in the industry, alongside other prerequisites such as possessing relevant qualifications and certifications. 

Given the infancy stage of the sustainability industry relative to others, many companies and employers are barely envisioning the value of the sustainability concept in a commercial sense. As such, job opportunities in this industry are likely to be concentrated within the larger companies and focused on full-time positions that mandate technical expertise. There is also a missed opportunity in the fact that the majority of the workforce in Singapore is supported by SMEs, which have yet to gain sufficient access to sustainability information and thus have reduced willingness to provide employment in this aspect. It is therefore no surprise that half of the respondents in the sustainability landscape survey reiterated the lack of sustainability career options in Singapore. With this in mind, we need to understand why this is happening and how we can change it for the better.

Challenges, concerns, and the way forward

Among the feedback gathered from the speakers and participants, the lack of topical expertise and industry-specific knowledge was highlighted as key blocking points to embark on a sustainability career. This essentially pointed towards the need for a more in-depth and fragmented sharing, as opposed to a broad-based and high-level overview of sustainability issues. For instance, further dissection of verticals into food technology, food innovation, and supply chain improvements would provide a better understanding of the sustainability roles and career prospects in these areas.

Though salary and monetary concerns continued to be of an issue to participants, youths appeared to have viewed these concerns less importantly, much owing to their piqued interest in the sustainability issues portrayed through the media. Results from the sustainability landscape survey also suggested that respondents from the youth age group were all keen to explore career opportunities in the sustainability field. In addition, traditional engagements through physical meetings and career fairs did not sufficiently appeal to youths and young working adults, as opposed to the more popular option of shorter engagements that can be initiated at their own timings. Dubbed as the “DIY” generation, their change in behaviour towards career development suggested a need for future engagements to be geared towards the digital platforms under the new normal. 

Nonetheless, it is encouraging to note that people who are looking for a career transition are now turning to push factors, such as searching for careers that can evoke more meaningful contributions. Based on the sustainability landscape survey, a whopping 94.3% of the respondents have indicated interest to explore other careers in the sustainability field, where nearly half of them have actually been applying for jobs related to sustainability. 

The role of government

While businesses and corporates have a big part to play, government support also constitutes a critical component to complete the sustainability puzzle. Up to 72.9% of the respondents from the landscape survey indicated their confidence in government initiatives serving as a catalyst for new sustainability roles going forward. As a first step, public agencies should be engaged to provide alignment and standardization on the baseline definitions of sustainability and potential roles within each sector.

With these standards effected to induce and regulate consistent practices within the industry, the future of sustainability in Singapore can be said to be in good hands, especially with robust initiatives, such as the SG Green Plan and Budget 2021, all coming into play and taking our sustainability game to the next level.


Image credit: Sam Lion from Pexels

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Astute, agile, and adventurous, Kai Jie is a Chartered Accountant by profession and an environmentalist by passion. Over the years, he has worked with several NGOs and led volunteers on community involvement projects across Asia to rebuild homes and reconstruct livelihoods that were impacted by adverse climates. By living consciously and advocating his causes actively through multiple networks, he strives to raise greater awareness about climate change and inspire commitment towards making our world a better place. As a yoga and fitness enthusiast, Kai Jie spends most of his personal time meditating and working out, where he believes that establishing a healthy connection between the mind and body is key to making good decisions in life.