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These are the top skills you need for a career in ESG

7 Dec 2023

Interested in data, the environment and business? A career in ESG could be for you. Here are some ways you can brush up on your skills.

There is an argument to be made that all careers are – or at least should be – ESG careers. If you have read or listened to any of the coverage of Cop28 over the past week, you’ll know that an enormous part of the drive to mitigate the climate crisis is encouraging ordinary people to do their bit for the planet. That includes whatever they can do in their professional lives as well as their personal lives.

ESG – or environmental, social, governance – is a term that has long been used to refer to the various ways businesses can grow their operations while not harming the planet in the process. Some maintain that the two objectives are impossible to reconcile and that economic progress is always going to negatively affect the climate. Climate activists often accuse companies who claim to be ESG-compliant of ‘greenwashing’ – this is something you don’t want to be accused of if you’re working in the ESG sector.

Lots of big – and small – businesses maintain that it is possible to be green and make money at the same time. If you’re at all interested in data, the environment and business, a career in ESG can be very rewarding.

But because corporate sustainability is such a big talking point at the moment, any ESG knowledge at all means you stand out from the crowd. Let’s take a look at how you can learn more, as well as what you need to know.


In terms of knowledge, you’ll obviously need to know your stuff about sustainability issues. Project management skills and financial know-how will also help a lot as you may need to advise people about how they can incorporate various sustainability initiatives into their businesses. That brings us nicely to soft skills; you will need to be a savvy communicator (of data) and good at upskilling yourself as ESG trends evolve.

Learning paths

You don’t have to study for years or break the bank to learn ESG skills. If learning fast and flexibly is your main priority, this course on ESG Risk Management from the University of Cambridge online might be worth your time. It’s a tutor-guided six-week course that requires a commitment of about six to eight hours of study per week. At more than €2,000 it is not exactly cheap but it does provide certification and the course leaders are established industry experts. This option is more suitable for people who already have some level of ESG knowledge and experience.

If you’re completely new to ESG, the Corporate Governance Institute has a good simple guide to the concept on its website which breaks everything down simply. If you think you’d like to do further study, the article has a link to the institute’s online diploma in ESG – a six-month course.

For those who want to learn for free or at a more casual pace, resources such as IBM’s SkillsBuild and Udemy do good ESG-related courses.

Types of career opportunities

For argument’s sake, we’ll say there are defined ESG careers. For example, you could be an ESG analyst, ESG consultant, corporate social responsibility (CSR) manager, sustainability reporter and ESG portfolio manager among others.

ESG analyst: They carry out research and analysis of companies to evaluate their ESG performance and risks.

ESG consultant: In this role, people advise companies on how to improve their ESG performance and reduce their environmental impact.

CSR manager: A CSR manager works to develop and implement a company’s CSR programme.

Sustainability reporter: They are responsible for producing reports on ESG performance and communicating the results to stakeholders.

ESG portfolio manager: They oversee a portfolio of investments and align them with ESG principles.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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