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Food business sustainability manager

An image of a seed bank.

What do you do?

Work on improving the environmental sustainability of food processing factories around the world (so this job does involve quite a lot of travelling). This means analysing data on water and energy use, but also on the use and waste of raw materials. It will include writing policy and guidelines to be implemented by employees at all different levels of the business. 


What’s a typical day like?

Varied! It may involve interviews for new team members, meeting with different sub-teams, from those dealing with refrigeration, to water-management. It could also include liaising with our direct competitors, in order to produce useful databases on food procurement and the effect of agricultural processes on the overall environmental impact of some of the food we eat!  


This career would suit people with:

Those involved in sustainability management come from all sorts of backgrounds: engineering, policy, agronomy (agriculture), community engagement, project management or even the civil service. However, some skills that are needed include:

  • Numerical analysis: part of sustainability management is analysing the quantity of emissions produced or raw products used, in order to assess progress towards achieving your organisation’s sustainability targets.

  • Ability to influence others. Do you find it easy to convince other people that something is a good idea, moving a plan or project forward? Sometimes people need convincing that sustainable processes make good business sense and the policies you’ve written are worth them adhering to.

  • Strategic thinking: this is all about seeing the bigger picture, thinking about your organisation and its impact on the environment as a whole, knowing which issues to tackle first.


What makes it a green career?

This job offers an opportunity to have a direct impact on a global business’s carbon emissions - for example, affecting whether the company buys electricity produced by renewable sources, whether or not or how they recycle their waste, and how responsible they are in their approach to water usage. It offers an opportunity to make sustainability a key part of the overall business strategy. Being an international business, this job offers a big picture perspective on sustainability and there are often opportunities for global level programmes to work towards issues like water stewardship.


What qualifications do you need?

You will need a degree, this could be in engineering, policy, maths, physics, chemistry, management or business, as there is no obvious career path for those working in sustainability management (a masters or PhD wouldn’t go amiss!). It is not a sector with any entry level positions (i.e you cannot apply straight after a degree but it's something to work towards). Nearly everyone involved in jobs like this is a form of expert (there is a theory that says it takes 100,000 hours to become an expert, which is the equivalent of working full time for 56 years but in reality you wouldn’t need to work quite that long!).

How much might you earn?

£40,000 - £100,000 per year but you need to have been working a good while before you get into this sort of role.

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