What is sustainability?
Across the globe, particularly in the UK, there is a push for business and society to become ‘sustainable’, meaning that we are able to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Sustainability is quickly becoming the lens through which we map out every decision. It encourages us to frame choices in terms of environment, social and economic impact in the long-term, rather than short-term profit and gain. Only five years ago, it would have been inconceivable to think that defence had a role to play, yet the MOD’s recent sustainability strategy is an example of how seriously the UK is in meeting its Net Zero target by 2050.
Why should service members consider a career in sustainability?
Decisions in the military are not made on individual perception, but on a shared sense of purpose. It’s this shared sense of purpose which can be found in addressing global challenges, be it through profitable activity in the private sector, policy implementation in the public sector, or altruistic actions in the charitable sector.
Across all these sectors, strategies are being introduced to move the global economy towards one that is low-carbon and sustainable. What’s required is clarity of thought and action with results only being achieved if we get the right kind of people to implement the necessary changes and make them happen. What makes former service members suitable for this challenge is their shared sense of purpose in achieving a centralised goal and being part of ‘the bigger picture’.
As we near 2050, considerable investment is being made across infrastructure and housing, clean energy, transport, tourism, health, farming and land use, and ecosystem services to name a few. A government report suggested that the low-carbon and renewable energy economy could create nearly 700,000 jobs in England by 2030, with the potential of more than 1.18 million jobs created by 2050. Investment in green by the private sector is achieving exponential growth and the idea that profit should be sacrificed for sustainability no longer stands. Indeed, of the few areas still recruiting during the COVID19 pandemic, sustainability-focussed professions was one of them.
What skills would service members bring?
The military’s collaborative culture means service members gain exceptional interpersonal skills; having to adapt under pressure within dynamic teams whilst delivering multiple projects at pace.
Its leaders are given problem-solving skills analogous to a management consultant; finding comfort in uncertainty whilst directing highly-capable teams on multiple and often technical tasks. It’s this skill set that makes service members well-suited to a role in sustainability at the forefront in tackling the defining issues of our time.
What is the network and why was it started?
It was founded to raise awareness of the skills that service members can bring to addressing global challenges.
Its founders had faced difficulty in establishing a network of former service members working in sustainability-focussed areas, as well as a lack of understanding from HR departments and recruiters on the transferable skills that military personnel would bring to addressing climate change.
They saw an opportunity to create a network of former service members across multiple industries, who are readily willing to provide advice, referrals and opportunities to future service leavers. There’s representation now from finance, consulting, renewables, clean energy, utilities, policy, academia, and also entrepreneurs who have started their own businesses and online retail outlets. Members consist of former regular and reserve soldiers, sailors and airmen, from junior rank to staff officer level.
Where is the network hosted?
The group can be found here on the OA website or here on LinkedIn. If you’re interested in exploring a potential career in this area, then do join. We invite you to either; introduce yourself and your career aspirations on the public wall for members to respond to, survey the professions displayed and approach a member directly, or contact the group ‘Owners’ who are happy to make an introduction on your behalf.
Any other recommendations?
Yes, whether or not you’re directly involved in sustainability, ask your interviewer or potential employer what they’re doing to address climate change or become more sustainable. It’s a very contemporary topic due to the ongoing climate change discussion and the COVID19 pandemic has proven that jobs in this area are more resilient to global shocks.
Author & Co-Founder:
Caspar Bossom left the regular Army in 2019 after six years specialising in EOD&S and explosive demolitions. He undertook a full time MSc in ‘Climate Change, Management and Finance’ at Imperial College Business School and now works as growth manager at Treeconomy, a start-up that connects rural landowners who wish to plant trees with the global carbon offset market. He has an in-depth understanding of the use of finance in addressing climate change and is happy to discuss and signpost service leavers in this area. Connect with Caspar on Linkedin.
Matthew Gledhill left the regular Army in September 2019 to undertake an MSc in ‘Environmental Sustainability’ at the University of Edinburgh. His dissertation was on the relationship between climate change and conflict in Mali. He now works at Global Ethical Finance Initiative, an organisation which looks at how the finance sector can create a more sustainable future. Connect with Matthew on Linkedin.