Why Sustainable Career Development Matters for Career Professionals

Sustainable career development represented amongst some of the elements in the UN's icon for their 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiative.

As a career professional, you play a critical role in helping your clients navigate the ever-changing job market while also considering the long-term implications of their career choices on society and the environment. Sustainable Career Development is an approach that you can use to support your client in the development of a career path that contributes to a sustainable future.

Why Sustainability is Important to Career Development

Traditional career development may not always align with the principles of sustainability, contribute to the betterment of society, and encourage career paths that promote equity for all. Sustainable Career Development emphasizes the importance of ongoing learning and skill development, adaptability to changing market conditions, and making career choices that align with personal values and contribute positively to society.

Sustainable Career Development employs a holistic approach to career planning, work search, and career management. It requires you to consider the long-term implications of career decisions on both the individual and society. By integrating these considerations into your career development process, you can assist your clients in creating meaningful careers that provide financial stability, personal fulfillment, and longevity.

Bridging the UN Sustainable Development Initiative with Career Development

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals initiative is a global effort to promote sustainable development and address the world’s most pressing challenges. The initiative was launched in 2015 with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is a comprehensive plan of action that aims to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.

The UN Sustainable Development initiative is relevant to career development in several ways:

  • Sustainable Growth Opportunities: The initiative emphasizes sustainable economic growth, which can create new fields and professions. Individuals who are interested in pursuing careers in these areas may have increased opportunities for growth and advancement.
  • Competitive Skills Development: The initiative promotes the development of competencies that are relevant to sustainable development. Individuals who possess these skills may be more competitive in the job market and have greater opportunities for career development.
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship: The initiative recognizes the importance of fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, which can create new opportunities for business development and job creation.
  • Collaboration and Knowledge-Sharing: The initiative underscores the importance of partnership, networking, and joint problem-solving. These opportunities position individuals to learn and advance their careers in emerging fields.

The Government of Canada supports this initiative and has announced a number of investments related to sustainable development goals. Our profession is also ramping up sustainability in career development. The US-based National Career Development Association (NSDA) webinar, Bridging United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with Career & Life Planning, discusses how this applies to clients and students, showcasing classroom assignments that are currently in use.

How Workers Benefit from Incorporating Sustainability into Career Development

 Sustainable Career Development is an important aspect of your practice that can benefit clients, employers, and society as a whole.

  • Personal Fulfillment: Many job seekers are interested in pursuing careers that align with their values and contribute to environmental or social sustainability. You can help meet this demand and provide valuable guidance to your clients. This can lead to greater job satisfaction and personal fulfillment in the long term.
  • Competitive Advantage: Companies that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability can attract and retain top talent. As sustainability becomes increasingly important in the workforce, employers are seeking workers with sustainability-related knowledge. By keeping abreast of industry trends, your clients can identify emerging career opportunities and make informed decisions about their career paths. They will gain a competitive advantage in the job market by positioning themselves as valuable assets to employers.
  • Sustainable Career Paths: Clients benefit when you promote career paths that contribute to a sustainable future. Individuals interested in pursuing careers in sustainable fields, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, sustainable agriculture, sustainable resources, eco-tourism, or green technologies, may have increased opportunities for growth and advancement.
  • Long-Term Job Security: Sustainable development is becoming increasingly important as societies and economies shift toward more sustainable practices. You can help clients develop skills that will be in demand in the long-term. These include technical skills in sustainability-related fields, as well as skills related to problem-solving, communication, and collaboration. By developing these skills, clients can adapt to changing industry demands.

Benefits Career Professionals Gain from Sustainable Career Development

Promoting sustainable career development is one way to ensure that your practice aligns with social and environmental values. Here are some potential benefits that you and your career service will achieve:

  • Increased Job Satisfaction: Engaging in work that aligns with one’s values and contributes to environmental or social sustainability can lead to a greater sense of purpose and job satisfaction.
  • Improved Retention Rates: Clients who feel a strong sense of purpose and alignment with their work are more likely to stay with their employers long-term, reducing turnover rates and associated costs. This is an outcome career coaches can be very proud of.
  • Access to Growing Sectors: As more organizations adopt sustainability goals and practices, there is a growing demand for workers with skills and knowledge in sustainable development, providing new opportunities for your career service to support them.
  • Positive Impact on the Environment And Society: By promoting Sustainable Career Development, you can help individuals make a positive impact on the environment and society, contributing to a more sustainable future for all.

Learn more about Sustainable Career Development in Canada

As sustainability becomes increasingly important in the workforce, develop and enhance your own knowledge, expertise, and opportunities. Stay up to date with industry trends and understand how they relate to social and environmental sustainability. Here are some websites that provide information and resources related to Sustainable Career Development in Canada:

  • Canada’s Sustainable Development Goals provides information on Canada’s efforts to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including information on career opportunities and training programs.
  • Centre for Social Innovation offers resources and networking opportunities for social entrepreneurs and professionals working in the social sector.
  • Connecting Environmental Professionals (CEP) Vancouver was launched in 2002 and has grown to a thriving network of over 1000 sustainability professionals from across British Columbia. CEP Vancouver offers valuable programming, events, and professional-development opportunities, including an annual mentoring program.
  • Environmental Careers Organization of Canada (ECO) champions the environmental sector and the end-to-end career development needs of sustainability-focused employers, employees, and job seekers. Their site includes an extensive, Canada-wide job board.
  • GoodWork is Canada’s largest community of environmental changemakers, sustainability professionals, job seekers, and volunteers.
  • Sustainability Network provides resources and networking opportunities for sustainability professionals and organizations in Canada.
  • Sustainable Business Network of Canada provides resources and networking opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs interested in sustainability and social responsibility.
  • Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) is on a mission to mobilize Canadian universities and colleges to facilitate learning and accelerate problem solving for the UN’s 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • The Natural Step Canada offers resources and training programs related to sustainability and systems thinking.
  • The Pembina Institute provides research and policy analysis related to environmental sustainability, including information on career opportunities in the sector.

Your Call to Action

By promoting Sustainable Career Development, you can play a vital role in helping your clients achieve their career goals while also contributing to a more sustainable and equitable future.

Sustainable development and Sustainable Career Development are connected in their shared goal of promoting social and environmental sustainability, and their recognition of the importance of taking a long-term perspective to ensure a sustainable future for all.

Sustainability also involves developing skills and competencies that are in demand in a rapidly changing economy, while also contributing to a more sustainable future. These challenges highlight the need for ongoing education and advocacy, as well as collaboration between career professionals, employers, workers, and policymakers to address barriers and promote sustainable practices in the workplace.

What steps are you going to take to ensure a more sustainable and equitable future?

Sharon Graham is founder and interim executive director of Career Professionals of Canada. Committed to setting the standard for excellence in the career development profession, Sharon has authored top selling paperback publications and textbooks, and has established a range of certification, professional development, community development, mentoring, and award programs. As chair of the board of CPC, she provides foresight and leadership within the sector and ensures that the mandate of this national organization is upheld with integrity. Portions of this article include content modified from text generated by AI.



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