Profession in focus: Sustainability Consultant

by Aman Singh Das | January 07, 2010

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In December, I talked about California reporting a 5% growth in green jobs compared to a 1% decline in overall job growth between January 2007 and 2008. What was even more striking was that environmental consulting made up 45% of the growth in the green jobs market.

So what does an environmental consultant do? Do they advise nonprofits and associations on things to do with the environment? Do they have a corporate role? Does the term "environmental consultant" also encompass sustainability work and advising corporate America on CSR compliance? To find out, Vault.com spoke to Polina Feldman, an associate consultant at San Francisco-based Blu Skye Sustainability, a for-profit strategic consulting firm focusing on sustainability.

Interestingly, while her career path followed an atypical pattern with a background in biological anthropology, she admitted that most people at Blu Skye are armed with MBAs and previously worked in nonprofits or the business sector. Below is a typical day in her life.

8:30 a.m.: The day begins. Arrive at your desk, and start checking your emails and placing phone calls. Your company has been developing strategies to help Wal-mart reduce its impact on the environment while improving its profitability. It's a challenging, long-term task, and it's your main focus.

10:00 a.m.: Big box greeting. Your first meeting of the day regards a subset of the Wal-mart project, involving Wal-mart International. You are helping this wing of the company to organize a sustainability summit, bringing international leaders together to find sustainability opportunities for the company. Right now, you are hashing out the scope and agenda for the summit, drafting an invitee list proposal, and preparing background documents. You huddle with the client and other members of your team to discuss the status of these tasks.

11:30 p.m.: Work the phone. After the meeting is over, you head back to your desk. You make some phone calls regarding the status of deliverables you are presenting at another Wal-mart meeting this afternoon. (About 30 percent of your day is spent on the phone.) Then you get to work on a PowerPoint presentation for that meeting.

12:30 p.m.: Recharge. You find the time to duck out of your office for a quick bite.

1:00 p.m.: Answer questions. Back at your desk, you work on an Excel spreadsheet that will be a waste-reporting template for Wal-mart's country leaders. Then you field a phone call from the client, who has follow-up questions regarding the morning's meeting.

2:00 p.m.: Indexing sustainability. Your second big meeting of the day also concerns Wal-mart. Your firm is working on a "sustainability index" to incentivize Wal-mart suppliers to improve their sustainability. You meet with the stakeholders on this project—fellow consultants, the client, and outside academics and advisers who are providing counsel. Your contribution to the meeting is a brief PowerPoint presentation detailing information that executives can use when explaining the "Wal-mart Index" to stakeholders.

3:30 p.m.: Follow-up research. After the meeting, you have a number of follow-up tasks to complete and questions to answer. You begin researching these issues, and thinking through their implications for your client’s strategy.

5:35 pm.: Close your computer. You usually manage to leave work between five and six, but you bring your notebook computer home with you.

8:15 p.m.: Follow-up work. After eating dinner, you respond to some emails from clients in different time zones, and do some more work on your Excel waste-reporting template.

corporate sustainability

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Filed Under: CSR

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