5 rewarding careers in the environment sector

Somehow, the pandemic managed to make the world recognise environmental crisis in a way that no cyclone, floods or Greta Thunberg could do. As the world woke up to the fact that things can go irreparably wrong, we threw ourselves into making it right with true human optimism.

Companies, multilateral agencies and universities threw themselves into finding solutions and investments in Environmental, Sustainability and Governance (ESG ) programs surged. Climate finance skyrocketed with the World Bank delivering a record $32 billion for climate related projects across the world, more than a third of their total financing! According to Bloomberg Intelligence, ESG assets surpassed $35 trillion headed to over $50 trillion by 2050.

In short, the environment has taken centre stage in the world and presents diverse career opportunities for those whose hearts beat for it!

Environmental scientists and engineers

Environmental Scientists and Engineers

Environmental scientists may work with companies researching processes to cut down carbon emissions or to use recycled good and reduced non-biodegradable waste. Or they may work with research laboratories on sources of clean energy or microbial decomposition of plastics. Or they may work with policy organisations documenting the effects of global warming and climate change on the earth’s natural systems and processes.

Some leading areas in research today include climate change, renewable energy, noise, water and air pollution, wildlife conservation and loss of biodiversity.  Environmental Engineers with a specialisation in civil engineering or chemical engineering work on wastewater management, air and water pollution control, waste disposal and recycling. Electrical and mechanical engineers work on generating and harnessing green energy – through nuclear fusion or solar panels, for example and on reducing the carbon impact of existing technologies with automobile and manufacturing industries.

Environmental policy analysts

Environmental Policy Analysts

Environmental policy refers to any action taken by a government, corporation, or other public or private organization to mitigate the harmful effects of human activity on the environment. An example of an environmental policy at an individual level is – condominiums have rules on segregating garbage into recyclable and non-recyclable bins before throwing it out. Even though by law, one would not be penalised for the same, your society may take certain actions for not complying with their rules. 

Environmental Policy analysts may work with the government through the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and its many organisations in forest or coastal management, pollution, biodiversity or wildlife conservation. Recruitment would be through the Indian Forest Service or through direct jobs.

Other than the government, policy makers could work with advocacy groups, think tanks, and media. Council On Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), World Resources Institute India (WRI India) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). Policy Analysts could also work with consulting firms like Deloitte, Accenture, Booz Allen Hamilton in their Environmental practices working on government or corporate ESG projects.

Environmental laws

Environmental Lawyers

Environmental law is a body of laws, regulations, agreements, and common law that govern how humans interact with their surroundings. Environmental laws naturally aim to protect the environment from harm, but they also define who can use natural resources and on what terms. Laws can vary from pollution regulation to the use of natural resources to forest protection to mineral extraction, and the protection of animal and fish populations.

For Example, from July 1, 2022, India prohibited the manufacture, sale, and use of identified single-use plastic items such as plates, cups, straws, trays, and polystyrene. The plastic carry bag is one of the main single-use plastic items listed. Environmental lawyers may work with the government to draft laws, run their own practice handling Public Interest Litigation (PIL) cases against polluting industries, or work with companies dealing with environmental regulations and issues. They can also work with think tanks as policy analysts.

Environmental economics

Environmental Economists

The focus of environmental economics is to encourage sustainable development policies that balance both environment and economic concerns. It deals with the economic and financial implications of environmental policies such as the impact of the ban on plastic on small-scale industries. A popular example of environmental economics is the carbon tax government levies to penalize industries that emit carbon.

Environmental Economists may work with the government, with think tanks and with companies using and trading in carbon credits. Carbon credits are permits for a company to emit a certain quantity of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. Companies earn carbon credits by investing in environment-friendly projects and these credits can also be traded internationally.

Environmental economists work with governments to create regulatory systems for carbon markets and exports of carbon credits. They may also work with think tanks, consulting firms and with companies dealing in carbon credits.

ESG investors and analysts

ESG Investors and Analysts

As investments by companies in environment projects rise, and many new ventures are getting launched in environmental-friendly products and technology, there is a corresponding rise in ESG investing and ESG funds. ESG funds that are focussed on investing in environmentally-responsible business were launched in 1960s but the last five years have seen a huge jump with India alone recording an inflow of Rs 5000 crore in ESG funds in 2021-22 – the first post COVID year. Some of India’s best ESG funds include SBI Magnum Global Fund, Aditya Birla Sun Life Advantage Fund, Franklin Build India Fund and the ICICI Prudential Value Discovery Fund.

This growth in ESG funds has created a demand investment analysts who can assess the financial and non-financial value and feasibility of these projects. ESG analysts will scrutinize investment opportunities to determine its financial impact, sustainability, environmental impact and growth potential. The analysis guides potential ESG investors on the most suitable projects to invest in.

So, those of you looking for a career with meaning, here is a range of options on making a career in the environmental areas work for you. Here’s a chance to make money while literally making the world a better place to live in!

(with inputs from Kritika Malhotra, Romie Malhotra and Kamalika Chowdhurey)

The writer is Founder and CEO, Inomi Learning, a Gurugram-based career and college guidance firm. info@inomi.in

The original article was first published in ‘The Hindu’ on December 18th, 2022.

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