Is sustainability a viable career in India?

In this article, the author talks about the potential of sustainability as a career in India, given the various policies and initiatives being taken up by the government and corporates to move towards a low carbon economy.

The concept of sustainable development, first introduced in 1987, has since been widely adopted by governments and businesses alike in a quest for a cleaner and healthier environment. Recent reports on the state of the environment in general, and global threats due to climate change, in particular have triggered a series of policy actions both at international and national levels. As a result, there has been a strong international push towards adoption of environmentally sustainable processes. Green business, particularly in the energy sector, is increasingly attracting attention from young entrepreneurs as well as venture capitalists, and there is a growing trend of new companies/ consultancies focused on niche areas such as renewable energy, building efficiency etc. At the same time, the established companies are making a move towards greener and more energy, resource and carbon-efficient systems and processes, and thus, there is an all-round demand for appropriately trained professionals. In order to bring about the transition to a low-carbon economy, there is a need for skilled professionals with the right training to fill positions for the new vocations collectively being described as green jobs.  A surge in such jobs has been witnessed as a result of internationally agreed goals focused on climate adaptation and mitigation.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) defines green jobs as positions in agriculture, manufacturing, installation, construction and maintenance as well as scientific and technical, administrative and service-related activities that contribute substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality .

Key sectors under the green jobs segment include renewable and alternate energy, energy efficiency in buildings, transport and infrastructure, and agriculture and forestry. Akin to the international trends, India is also witnessing an increased demand for workers trained and skilled in the different facets of environment. The Government of India is also trying to create more green jobs, and to this effect, a mapping exercise is being undertaken to assess the potential of green jobs in the small and unorganized sector . At the same time, the corporate sector and businesses are also focusing their attention on the green issues. The recent adoption of different missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) including the National Solar Mission and National Mission on Energy Efficiency has further increased the demand for professionals, particularly in the renewable energy sector. 

Education and training
In order to ensure that the high demand for the skilled professionals is adequately met, it is important to ensure that there are enough educational and training opportunities in the market. A number of institutions across the country are currently conducting courses in environmental subjects ranging from government universities to private institutions (Table 1). An emerging trend is the introduction of new courses in the field of environment, both at diploma and postgraduate level. In 2009, Delhi based TERI University introduced an MBA course in Business Sustainability and in the following year, Gujarat University, in collaboration with the Centre for Environment Education (CEE), launched a two year postgraduate course in Climate Change and Impacts Management to cater to the surging demand for professionals trained in environmental issues .

Table 1: Environmental courses offered across India









There are a range of employment opportunities in the environment sector, including government institutions, research and educational entities, private consultancies, NGOs, industry (including process efficiency and corporate governance) and independent consultancy work.
Figure 1:  Major employer categories vis-à-vis green jobs


While on one hand, the governments at different levels are commissioning studies, and introducing more stringent pro-environment legal and policy action, companies are creating units/ divisions that focus solely on the environmental sustainability of the concerned business, and create environmentally friendly processes and mechanisms. At the same time, new firms/ consultancies/ businesses are being established in fields such as environmental assessment (Environment Impact Assessment and Strategic Environment Assessment), waste and wastewater management, green building certification (LEED and GRIHA), renewable energy and energy efficiency in industries. The renewable energy sector and the construction sector businesses are diversifying rapidly, and as a result, employment opportunities are on a rise. Given these facts, we can safely say that sustainability is definitely one of the potential work areas that new as well as existing professionals can explore.

The author Pallavi Pant is a sustainability professional who has worked with ClimateWorks Foundation, and currently doing PhD in the University of Birmingham.

On a related note, please spare 5 minutes and take part in India's first Sustainability Career Survey 2011 by following this link:
All participants will receive a COMPLIMENTARY copy of the survey results.

UNEP, 2008. Background Paper on Green Jobs.  Available at
India committed to promoting green jobs: Government, June 24, 2010, Available at-
Management Education Centre on Climate Change-, Accessed on May 21, 2011
Green Courses Directory-

Image(s) Courtesy:
prosto photos
Walmart Stores

Author: Pallavi Pant