What qualifications do you need for ESG?

Published on:
by KnowESG,

Ecolab Inc.

Image of SDGs wooden blocks on green background with plant
A career in ESG means a diverse mindset of skills, learning, and opportunity (Image by Freepik).

The importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors has grown in the business world. People are looking for sustainable practices and ethical decision-making from companies, which has led to an increased need for professionals who are knowledgeable in ESG. This article discusses the necessary qualifications for a career in ESG and the skills and knowledge required to make a valuable contribution to this field.

There is a wide range of career opportunities related to ESG today. Qualified individuals in this field can work in various sectors such as wealth management firms, banks, and investment funds. For instance, ESG analysts are hired to assess the non-financial aspects of investment opportunities for more comprehensive decision-making. ESG analysts use various sources of information, including previous audits, public policy statements, growth forecasts, and in-house data analysis. The results of their analysis help identify potential future risks for companies and suggest measures to mitigate them.

As of 2021, the global investment in ESG had reached nearly $700 billion, which is more than twice the figure from 2019. It's expected that these assets will increase to $1 trillion by 2030, leading to a growing demand for jobs in the field of ESG analysis.

Featured Article: 6 Ways To Close The Sustainability Skills Gap

The qualifications needed for ESG jobs depend on the specific area of ESG you want to work in. Some areas require specialised knowledge, degrees, or experience. To give an overview, here are some basic expectations that employers may have for people interested in careers in ESG.

Strong Educational Foundation

To have a successful ESG career, a strong educational background is crucial. Although there isn't a particular degree that you must have, you should consider pursuing an academic field that is related to ESG, such as environmental science, sustainability studies, finance, economics, business administration, or social sciences. By taking these programmes, you may also learn about various relevant topics, like ethical decision-making, sustainable business practices, corporate governance, social impact, and climate change, which will help you develop a complete understanding of ESG principles.

Specialised Certifications

Getting certified in specialised areas of ESG can elevate your credentials, and there are credible organisations that provide certifications in specific aspects of ESG, including the GRI Standards Certification offered by the Global Reporting Initiative, the CSR-P certification by the Centre for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE), and the FSA certification in Sustainability Accounting by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). These certifications prove your dedication to keeping pace with the latest industry practices and standards.

Keep track of upcoming in-person and online ESG certifications opportunities by bookmarking our ESG Courses page.

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Relevant Experience

To gain a better understanding of ESG issues and how they are applied in different industries, it is essential to have practical experience. Consider working on sustainability projects, internships, or research initiatives related to ESG in organisational sustainability departments, non-profit entities, social impact organisations, or environmental consulting firms. Volunteering for sustainability-focused organisations is another way to get valuable exposure to ESG practices and expand your professional network in the field.

As an indication, check out these companies that offer great volunteering opportunities.

Analytical Skills

To effectively assess sustainability data, professionals in the ESG domain need strong analytical skills. They should be proficient in data analysis, interpretation, and reporting, and have the ability to identify trends, measure performance indicators, and quantify environmental and social impacts. Familiarity with tools like life cycle assessment (LCA), environmental impact assessment (EIA), and social impact assessment (SIA) can be advantageous.

Where to start? Ecochain has a great LCA Beginner’s Guide.

Communication and Stakeholder Engagement

Professionals in ESG roles need to have excellent communication skills to explain sustainability concepts to a variety of stakeholders. They must be able to persuade decision-makers and explain the benefits of sustainability to them. In addition, building relationships and engaging with stakeholders is crucial for successful ESG implementation. These professionals must be able to create persuasive stories and reports, and present data in a way that is easy for everyone to understand, clearly complementing and strengthening the strategic business plan.

Regulatory and Industry Knowledge

It is important for ESG professionals to keep up-to-date on changing regulations, industry standards, and best practices. Knowing frameworks like the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), and guidelines specific to their industry is essential. Additionally, being knowledgeable about regional and international sustainability regulations, reporting expectations, and up-and-coming trends will help professionals navigate the intricacies of ESG with greater success.

Ethical and Values-Based Mindset

ESG professionals require a strong ethical foundation and values-based mindset, in addition to technical qualifications. It is essential for them to be genuinely passionate about sustainability and creating positive change. Balancing environmental, social, and economic considerations requires making tough decisions in ESG roles. Navigating complex issues and advocating for sustainable solutions demands a commitment to ethical practices, integrity, and social responsibility.

Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration

To effectively address ESG issues, professionals need to work together across different departments and areas of expertise. Being able to navigate between departments, build relationships, and find common ground is crucial for success in this field. Strong communication and collaboration skills are highly valued.

Continuous Learning and Adaptability

ESG professionals must prioritise ongoing education and flexibility as the ESG landscape evolves with emerging challenges, regulations, and technologies. To offer relevant and impactful advice, staying well-informed about emerging trends, technological advancements, and innovative solutions is crucial. Participating in workshops, attending conferences, acquiring new skills, and engaging with thought leaders in your industry are all key methods for staying ahead in this dynamic field.

Here’s a great, quick read guide to making continuous learning a habit.

Global Perspective

To excel in the field of ESG, professionals need to have a global perspective as these issues are not limited by geography. It is important to comprehend the social, environmental, and economic challenges faced by various cultures and regions. Being aware of global sustainability standards, cultural differences, and trends can help professionals create strategies that are effective, adaptable, and inclusive in different contexts.

Top companies hiring for ESG jobs

With the increasing significance of ESG issues, businesses are adopting sustainable practices and recruiting for ESG-related roles. Check out the following companies that are hiring for ESG jobs:

Amazon and Google are committed to reducing their carbon footprint and have taken steps towards achieving this goal. Both companies are investing in renewable energy and have several job openings in sustainability, energy, and environmental compliance. Amazon's target is to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, while Google has already achieved its goal of sourcing 100% of its energy from renewable sources and is working on becoming carbon-free.

Patagonia offers various job positions focused on environmental and social responsibility. They are known to use organic and sustainable materials only in their products as part of their commitment to sustainable business practices. Unilever, on the other hand, has several job openings focused on sustainability, responsible sourcing, and circular economy due to their aim to decrease their environmental impact and promote sustainable living.

Goldman Sachs intends to invest $150 billion in clean energy and sustainable infrastructure by 2025 and has several job openings in sustainable finance, ESG research, and impact investing. Similarly, Salesforce is committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and is investing in renewable energy. They also have various job vacancies in sustainability and corporate responsibility.

Allianz and Ecolab are both companies with a focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility. Allianz offers job opportunities in areas such as responsible investing, sustainability, and risk management, while Ecolab has openings in sustainability, environmental compliance, and energy management.

These companies are currently seeking candidates for ESG-related roles, but many other businesses across different sectors are also placing importance on sustainability and are in the process of hiring for similar positions. With the increasing demand for ESG professionals, more companies will likely begin to prioritise sustainable practices and recruitment for ESG positions.

Takeaway

To develop a successful career in ESG, it's not enough to just have a degree or certification. Along with a solid educational background and specialised knowledge, ESG professionals need various skills and attributes. These include analytical skills, the ability to communicate effectively and engage stakeholders, knowledge of industry regulations, ethical decision-making, collaboration across different fields, adaptability, and a global view. 

Professionals who have both relevant qualifications and a genuine interest in sustainability can help facilitate positive change and work towards creating a more sustainable future.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the career qualifications for ESG?

Qualifications for a career in ESG can differ based on the industry and role. Generally, having a solid educational foundation in relevant areas like sustainability studies, environmental science, economics, finance, or social sciences is advantageous. Additionally, obtaining specialised certifications focused on ESG standards and practices can also bolster one's qualifications.

Having practical experience through internships, research projects, or working in sustainability-related roles can be very useful for an ESG career. Other important factors for success in this field include analytical skills, effective communication, stakeholder engagement, industry knowledge, and an ethical mindset.

Who should do ESG certification?

Pursuing ESG certifications can prove advantageous for professionals who want to boost their knowledge and reputation in sustainable investing, corporate sustainability, or responsible business practices. ESG roles such as sustainability managers, ESG analysts, sustainability consultants, finance professionals, governance specialists, or corporate social responsibility professionals can reap the benefits of acquiring such certifications. Obtaining ESG certifications can help individuals gain a better understanding of ESG frameworks, reporting standards, and best practices. This knowledge can be used to navigate and contribute to the constantly changing sustainable practices field.

How do I start an ESG career?

If you want to pursue a career in ESG, you should first focus on building a strong educational background in areas like finance, sustainability, or environmental science. You can also gain practical experience by volunteering or interning with sustainability-related projects. Keep yourself updated about the latest industry trends and regulations, and network with ESG professionals. Pursuing specialised ESG certifications can also help you enhance your expertise.

To increase your chances of getting hired in the ESG-related industry, consider modifying your resume to emphasise your experiences, skills, and qualifications that relate to ESG. Also, explore job openings in companies, consultancies, or organisations that prioritise sustainability to gain practical experience in the field.

How do I become an ESG Consultant?

If you want to become an ESG Consultant, here are some steps you can take: get an education in sustainability or related fields, become an expert in ESG frameworks and best practices, gain practical experience through internships or projects, build a professional network, get certifications like Certified ESG Analyst, and develop consulting skills such as analytical, communication, and stakeholder engagement. You can find opportunities in ESG consulting firms, the sustainability departments of larger companies, or even start your own consulting business.

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