What I learned (so far) about the sustainability profession in the Philippines

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For quite some time now, I’ve been grappling with the thought of a sustainability career in the Philippines. I’ve asked people their thoughts, researched some degrees in local universities, joined some sustainability initiatives, and even posted in reddit to ask for advice. And while indeed it is difficult to start a career on sustainability in my country, there are some insights I learned along the way.

The sustainability profession is not yet clear

What I mean by this is that the sustainability profession is not yet defined in the Philippines. If you were to pursue a scalable career on sustainability, you’re going to have to do it in another country. This will most likely be in developed countries with fast-growing industries on green technology and renewable energy, among others.

On the other hand, if you’re fine with pursuing the ‘grassroots level’ kind of sustainability, non-profit and environmental organizations are good places to start with in the Philippines. While doing so, you can decide to go higher up the ladder and enter corporate sustainability, for instance.

Since the profession is not yet defined in the Philippines, I think the best way to go is through a grassroots approach. You can also decide to take a masters program in environmental science, environmental planning, or urban planning, among others, and gain some related experience along the way through internships.

There is the notion that sustainability is only about the environment

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that sustainability is only about the environment. While it is true that the sustainability movement was mainly influenced by the current environmental state of the world, it is not just about that. You also need social, economic, and political structures to make sustainability possible. For instance, environmental policies are integral components of urban and regional planning.

There’s a big debate on this — on the fact that sustainability is not just about the environment. While I appreciate this, personally speaking I don’t find the debate to be necessary. Like the systems that make up the world, sustainability works the same way. It is a systemic field. This means that it involves a lot of industries and perspectives. So rather than debating on the fact that it involves more than just the environment, I think it’s high time that people talk more on ‘how’ sustainability can be pursued.

The profession is typically reserved for higher-ups in CSR and environmental organizations

One of the big barriers to entry in a sustainability career in the Philippines is that the position is typically reserved for higher positions. One of these include top positions in corporate social responsibility. Before reaching such a position, you’re going to have to climb the ladder in whatever way possible. While this may sound discouraging, it’s the reality of the profession.

I was advised before that — to enter a sustainability career in the corporate world — it would help to get into a marketing field. Since sustainability is still a developing field, learning how to communicate it through a marketing field sounds like a viable path to take.

The job hunt is pretty scarce 

A Google search for sustainability careers in the Philippines would most likely leave you frowning. Like I mentioned, if you were to pursue a scalable sustainability career, I think you’re better off pursuing it in another country. One of the reliable sustainability career resources would be Sustainable Career Pathways.

Lack of opportunities means plenty of room for development

I want to end this list on a positive note. While there is, indeed, a lack of opportunities for a sustainability career in the Philippines, this just means there is plenty of room for development. This means that as a sustainability advocate, you may even decide to start a project involving your local community, or engage with initiatives on recycling, green living, or low impact, among others. The insight here is that you start creating the change that’s needed for this field.

In general, these insights are not meant to discourage us from pursuing a career in sustainability. They are, instead, meant to challenge us and teach us to become creative. A simple metaphor to it would be: if life gives you lemons, you make lemonade out of it.

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