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Pursuing a career in corporate social responsibility and sustainability has for the longest time been considered the best fit for liberal arts majors, commerce lovers and business development addicts, i.e., professionals and job seekers with backgrounds in marketing, public relations,  and communication.

These claims have some validity. In fact, the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship (BCCCC) released an insightful report earlier this year, profiling the profession of corporate citizenship. One of their findings:

“An overwhelming majority (93%) are career changers with a background in a different field or position, with 44.6% from communication-related fields, 24.2% from PR, 22.6% from corporate communications, and 23.9% with a background in marketing.”

Now, an argument is challenging this status quo, calling the claim hollow and even detrimental to the field of sustainability. The argument is slowly gaining momentum.

Akhila Vijayaraghavan,a graduate in molecular biology from the University of Glasgow, U.K. who has studied environmental management as well as international environmental law, argumes:

“Everything in the environment is linked to something else; and therefore it needs to be thought of as a whole system in order to arrive at solutions. By some quirk of brain mechanism, a certain kind of people are drawn to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and through natural inclination and academic training, graduates from these fields are taught to think holistically. These are the kind of people that need to be given opportunities in the environmental field.”

Admittedly, there is a wide career gap when discussing CSR, sustainability and science.

Think about it: How many people who graduate with a degree in engineering, mathematics, technology or scientific research, work in the nonprofit sector or seek opportunities in human resources, strategy or operational sustainability?

Vijayaraghavan’s analysis then provides useful–and much-needed–perspective for the many students gravitating toward STEM fields but not necessarily equating their academic leanings with environmental and social issues.

The real questions:

  • Why is the field of sustainability unattractive to STEM candidates if CSR is just another term for scientific systems thinking?
  • Are we missing out on the prowess of millions of analytical heavyweights in solving today’s sustainability problems by not educating them holistically enough?
  • How do you align molecular biology and algorithmic algebra with a career in energy efficiency, retrofitting, solar power, power consumption, and further, corporate reputation, building trust and promoting ethical business?

On my invitation, Vijayaraghavan explained.

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