Sustainability is an approach to living and working in such a way as to ensure the long-term welfare of both people and the planet. In recent years, this has become an important concept in the business world as well as politics, as it encompasses interrelated areas of environmental, social, and economic sustainability.
For example, environmental protection and regulation is needed to reduce pollution and mitigate climate change and ecosystem degradation. Sustainable social policies and urban planning are also needed to help people live safe, healthy, and enjoyable lives without permanently depleting resources. And sustainable development of the economy is essential to meet present day needs without harming the ability of future generations to do the same.
Businesses are increasingly adopting sustainable practices, rethinking everything from energy use to supply chain management practices in order to reduce environmental impacts. In addition to making a positive difference in their community, these approaches can often save costs, which is why these steps are increasingly expected by the general public as well as shareholders. This demand also presents opportunities for entrepreneurship, giving innovative startups both motivation and incentive to come up with new ways to meet our needs more sustainably.
Careers in virtually every sector of the economy can benefit from a background in sustainability, since this concept is so all-encompassing. For example, manufacturing businesses can gain by shifting to more sustainable supply chains; farmers can increase the appeal of their products and the resilience of their crops by adopting organic agricultural practices; and even the world of finance has seen growing demand for impact investing and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) portfolios.
Opportunities are also flourishing in the most innovative sectors of the “green” economy. According to the 2020 U.S. Energy & Employment Report, there are now more Americans employed in the solar industry than the coal industry. Indeed, one of the most successful startups of the 21st century, Tesla, is dedicated to selling non-polluting electric vehicles and solar panels. There are also opportunities for entrepreneurial endeavors in areas such as sustainable fashion, bio-based materials, and other innovative products.
Yes! Coursera offers a wide range of online courses and Specializations in the field of sustainability including topics such as corporate sustainability, green business strategy, and sustainable cities. You’ll receive a high quality education taught by top leaders in the field and have the opportunity to collaborate with students from around the world.
The ability to take classes remotely from such top-ranked schools as Columbia University, Duke University, and the University of Colorado allows you to do the same coursework and earn the same credits as on-campus students at a significantly lower cost - and with a lower carbon footprint, thanks to all that avoided travel.
Before starting to learn about sustainability, it helps to have basic knowledge of science topics that focus on the natural world. You might have already been exposed to some of these topics in school. These subjects can include climatology, meteorology, botany, agriculture, and sustainable energy sources. Volunteer work at conservatories or parks can also prepare you for your studies, as can experiences that involve taking care of your own plants or animals. Math courses, such as statistics, can help strengthen your ability to interpret data and determine what sustainable practices are most feasible.
The people best suited for roles in sustainability are creative problem solvers, as the field requires you to find innovative solutions to issues such as pollution and energy waste. You'll need an analytical mind to assess ways in which human behavior affects the environment and to what extent. It helps to have a love of nature and being in the elements, and strong communication skills allow you to share your findings with other people in the field. People working in the sustainability field also need to have lots of patience, as legal and political issues and unsuccessful experiments may slow down or even set back progress.
Learning sustainability might be right for you if you're passionate about helping to conserve the planet and its resources for future generations. This is a suitable field for you if you're a natural problem solver who focuses on the long-term, greater good. People in this field are forward thinkers who look for long-term solutions rather than quick and easy answers. You might currently be an individual simply looking to do your part to protect the environment. Or you might work for a small business or large organization that wants to stick to sustainable practices and limit its carbon footprint.