You don’t need a STEM degree for a career in sustainability


On 22 April your Careers Service joined with others to mark Earth Day calling on business, government and citizens to invest in our planet. This year the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, issued its ‘bleakest warning yet’ on the impacts of climate breakdown. Like us, you may feel hungry to find out how we can play a role in mitigating this, and address some of  the anxiety about the enormity of the problem.

The good news is that the choices you make in your career are likely to make the greatest contribution overall. There are many ways to do this in a professional sector that is growing  all the time. You don’t need to have studied a science or environment-related subject, either.

As part of the Bristol Connects series with our friends at Alumni Relations, we interviewed 10 Bristol alumni working in various non-STEM sustainability-related roles across a wide range of industries – including  some surprising ones!

Read the full resource here, or check out our snapshots below:


Rosie Helson: Sustainability and Inclusion Manager at British Airways



Arjun Sahota: Sustainability Consultant at JLL Real Estate



Sam Lee-Gammage: Group Ethics & Sustainability Manager, Raw Materials (food) at John Lewis Partnership


  1. Build a sustainability network

Start this before graduating, by volunteering (if you can), attending events such as the Bristol Green Capital monthly mingles, using LinkedIn, and being proactive about talking to people in these fields whenever possible.

Keep in mind that gaining experience can result from something as small as sending an email to a small organisation – as it may be the founder who responds! Always ensure that you personalise your introduction to the company.

Take roles that will help you to develop a range of transferable skills, but will also support you in creating a network of relevant contacts, e.g. working for a university newspaper or radio station on sustainability topics.


  1. Be interested and informed

Nobody expects you to have all the answers to complex sustainability problems, but impress employers by showing that you are interested, intrigued, well researched and driven.

Find out what the company culture is like before you decide to apply.  Company culture can be a focal point of interviews, so consider how to demonstrate that your goals align with those of the organisation.

Look to ask insightful questions to stand out, e.g. What is your business model? How did you gain traction? What is your projected growth and how are you getting there? These will show that you are invested in the future of the organisation and that you can contribute strategically.


  1. Adjust your lens

You don’t have to be working in a role with ‘sustainability’ in the title to have a great impact – this is something that is becoming embedded in all areas of work and life.  Increasingly, companies are becoming more open to adapting their working practices, broadening scope for input from all organisational areas.  Almost all roles offer some opportunity to increase sustainability and influence others, so make the most of these.

But don’t get frustrated. Leading change can be slow and require patience, and if you go on to work in a detail-oriented and complex setting such as bureaucratic government departments, your keenness to enact change may need some adjustment. But…try to focus on small incremental wins at first – it is worth it!

When looking for jobs, don’t rely on one job board, look at multiple, e.g. Acre Recruitment Agency, 80,000 hours, Sustainability Job, but also browse and search sustainability key words at traditional job boards. Guardian Jobs has a ‘green jobs’ tag on applicable roles.

You can view our other alumni’s roles and their tips here, plenty more great insight and advice.


And don’t forget…

Use your Careers Service to ask a quick question via Live Chat, book 1:1 appointments, get employer insights, hone your application and speculative application skills, research vacancies and gain relevant or transferable experience.  Also, sign up to Bristol Connects to connect with alumni in roles that interest you.