Sustainability on Your Resume

“Going Green,” sustainability and environmentally friendly initiatives continue to gain momentum and are increasingly becoming key priorities for companies.  This trend is far from universal.  As with every other priority companies face, environmental factors weigh differently from company to company.  This was made clear at the APICS Conference in Toronto this week.

The theme of the conference was Global Ability, and sustainability in manufacturing and supply chain roles was a key topic.  I had the chance to sit in on several of the educational sessions for sustainable issues.  Although many companies are grappling with how to integrate sustainability concerns into their business, several companies showed how they are delivering significant tangible results.  Reducing the environmental impact of the business is not a goal at these firms.  It is an absolute requirement.  Even more important, these companies showed significant improvement.

As a job seeker, there are hundreds of skills, experiences and accomplishments you can discuss on your resume.  Sustainability and environmental initiatives are just one category of priorities you can highlight.  So, should you market yourself on the cutting edge of sustainable business practices?

Unfortunately, there is no right answer to this question.  When you write a resume and market your background, you are trying to align your sales pitch to the priorities of the hiring manager.  This is difficult. 

There are a couple reasons you may want to highlight your experience with sustainability on your resume.  First, job seekers with significant skill and experience with designing and implementing sustainable improvements should show this experience.  Hiring managers wanting to improve the sustainability of an organization will value this past experience.  Second, job seekers without a lot of experience with sustainability may also benefit from a focus on this area.  For many companies, sustainability is still new.  Showing an interest and some experience in this area will help demonstrate a closer alignment of your values and interests with those of the company.  This by itself won’t get you hired, but may improve your odds.

The biggest challenge is knowing whether to emphasize your environmental experience.  If you emphasize this experience, you will have to de-emphasize something else.  If sustainability is only a minor concern for a hiring manager, and you decide to emphasize this over a key priority of the hiring manager, you will hurt your chances. 

There is only one solution to this dilemma.  You need to research the opportunity.  Reading the job description is not sufficient.  Many job descriptions include standard boilerplate text, listing all of the priorities of the company and the position.  Most job descriptions will not be tailored to the specific situation.  In fact, the same job description may be used company-wide over a period of many years.  Despite this, the demands and requirements of different departments, locations and hiring managers will dictate who is hired.  These priorities can vary wildly, while still falling under the broad guidelines of the position.

The research you need to do starts with the company.  What are the key priorities of the company?  What are they actually doing?  It’s easy to write a mission statement with a bunch of goals, but what are the activities to back this up.  Companies committed to sustainability as a key priority will show how they are achieving sustainable goals throughout their organization.

Other companies are just starting on the sustainable path.  They may have little in the way of tangible results, but consider sustainability a key priority.  Additionally, every area of a company will not have the same priorities.  New initiatives have to start somewhere and spread through an organization.  If the hiring manager is on the cutting edge, their priorities may be different from the company in general.

The more you can drill down on the goals specific to the role you are pursing, the better you will be able to tailor your sales pitch.  One technique is to network with current and former employees.  If you can find people who have experience working within the organization you are pursuing, you greatly improve your odds.


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