Mastering your sustainability career with Emily Goetsch

She is Sustainable Autumn Masterclass series: October 2022

For the second masterclass in the She is Sustainable Autumn series, we were delighted to welcome Emily Goetsch, Head of Research – UK at Acre, a leading sustainability recruitment and talent solutions company. Emily leads Acre’s UK research team, contributing to research development, strategy and growth, and occupies a unique vantage point on the ESG and sustainability jobs market.

The last two years has seen an exponential growth in demand for ESG and sustainability expertise. However, against the backdrop of a global pandemic and the exodus of talent from many sectors – coined ‘The Great Resignation’ – as well as more recent debates about ‘quiet quitting’ – and the risks of burnout, it’s clear that many of us are re-assessing our careers, working conditions, and longer-term goals. So, we asked Emily to share her views on how women in sustainability can equip themselves with the skills and resilience to ride the wave of sustainability opportunities and progress their career, while achieving greater balance within their personal lives. 

Emily shared a wide range of insights about how the jobs market is evolving – key messages included:

  • IT’S A GROWING FIELD: Emily highlighted how the market for ESG and sustainability jobs is growing. It’s clear that many more brands and sectors are seeking sustainability talent and expertise, and the range of roles from ‘deep green’ specialist or technical roles through to ‘light green’ generalist roles is evolving all the time. Apply!
  • DIVERSITY & INCLUSION ARE INFLUENCING RECRUITMENT PRACTICES: Encouragingly, Emily reported that at least a third of the clients that Acre works with are actively prioritising diversity and inclusion considerations within the longlist and shortlist process – demonstrating the desire to not only secure sustainability talent – but to pay attention to other protected characteristics, including gender and ethnicity. This creates a positive and welcoming recruitment environment for women seeking to progress their careers into new or more senior roles. Apply!
  • ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Emily noted that many more people are taking time out, following the pandemic, to review and reset their career trajectories. She encouraged SiS members to have open and honest conversations with recruiters about how their individual priorities, needs, passions and ambitions might shape their next move – including options for fixed term contracts, part-time roles, flexible or remote working opportunities. Many businesses are flexing their approach to secure the right talent – so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.  Oh, and apply!
  • FOCUS ON TRANSFERABLE SKILLS: Emily acknowledged the barriers often faced by women in applying to more senior roles where they don’t feel suitably qualified or experienced. Emily explained that your sustainability career doesn’t have to start with a sustainability role – and that adjacent experience in related fields or transferable skills that could add value in a sustainability context are especially relevant. You are invited to bring your unique perspective and the diversity of your career experience to the table when considering new roles. Did we say apply?!
  • HAVE A CONVERSATION: If you’d like a steer on how your current skills and experience stacks up against available roles, Emily welcomes the chance to connect with you to talk through your career interests, ambitions and how Acre can support. Acre works across virtually all sectors and geographies, supporting organisations to appoint both senior leaders as well as more junior members of staff working in the sustainability space. They also provide Business Intelligence services, and coaching for both teams and individuals alike. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Emily with questions and to connect ( And finally – apply!

Emily has kindly responded to additional questions asked in the chat below: 

What advice do you have for people with significant experience in one sector, wanting to shift into a different sector (still in sustainability)?

Organisations recognise that a lot of the approaches to sustainability and requisite technical skills embraced in one industry can be applied with some ease to other sectors. By way of example, a few years ago, the fashion industry had to address a range of issues from child labour to water and the experience of working in that space, along with the knowledge of those different challenges, is being fully embraced by other industries now. In applying for roles, I would emphasise the key skills that you have that are transferable, perhaps acknowledging in a cover letter (depending on the application process) how those skills are applicable in other areas. It’s not a steadfast rule, but we often find that our clients are generally open to professionals from different sectors who have the potential to bring that knowledge from another area into a space where new processes and approaches are being established.

Are there roles that combine passions (sustainability and travel) with 15+ years experience in project management (banking)?

Yes! Admittedly it would probably be helpful to have some exposure to sustainability topics, but project management is a very useful skill within sustainability. I am sure there are other spaces where this happens, but consultancy springs to mind as an avenue that might be worth considering. Consultants are often sent to different places to evaluate sites/assets/etc., and that sort of role could draw on your project management experience, as well as allowing you to explore a bit.

I’m at the opposite end of the career scale. Have worked in TV drama as a costume designer for most of my career. so have a degree but not a sustainability degree. Have joined various sustainability groups and am looking to transfer to sustainability career. Finding it difficult to find a way in.

Firstly, costume design sounds like an amazing job! I can understand how it might be challenging to build that bridge between a creative industry and sustainability. I think joining groups, meeting people in sustainability and building connections is a great start. I would also think creatively about how to combine costume design and your interests there with sustainability. For example, circularity is a big topic in fashion and I wonder if there are ways of getting involved in different programmes/initiatives through that sort of lens. It would be good to talk through some ideas, so please feel free to connect, but I’m very much an advocate for drawing on existing interests, expertise and connections to start to take things in a different direction.

Given that you mentioned a lot of companies ‘talk’ about diversity but don’t really act on it, what advice do you have for someone who falls into a minority group? (not just gender wise but also racial and experience wise) 

I would say that most of our clients recognise the importance of diversity, but they don’t necessarily know how to respond or act on that interest (that’s partly where we come in!). Businesses and organisations are actively looking to bring in people from different backgrounds, so in some ways there’s never been a better time to apply for jobs, drawing on different backgrounds and experience. By way of advice, I would encourage you to pursue the opportunities even though they might seem out of reach from job descriptions (as we discussed during the Masterclass, certain language is more appealing to women and garners more interest). Additionally, presenting different approaches, ways of thinking, and interests are often viewed very positively in interviews and organisations, so I encourage you to embrace your background, whether cultural or professional, and draw on those rich experiences that only you can bring to the table.