We spoke with Master in Sustainable Business & Innovation graduate Joshua Walker about his professional journey and his work in consulting in the field of sustainability.
Joshua is from the United States and holds a BSc in Environmental Studies and Sustainability from Michigan State University. During his undergraduate degree, he also studied sustainable agriculture and forest management abroad at EARTH University in Costa Rica. Joshua currently works as an ESG Consultant at Goby | The ESG Platform, specialised in helping businesses establish, monitor, and communicate ESG initiatives.
Can you share a bit about your professional journey since graduating EADA? What attracted you to your latest position in consulting?
After graduation, I first gained experience within energy efficiency programs, and realized that the field was too narrow to apply the knowledge and skills I had gained throughout my studies. I then transitioned to local government, and while I was able to gain a more holistic experience in sustainability, it had been my intention to work in sustainability consulting since my time at EADA. My work as an ESG Consultant with Goby allows me to have an impact through sustainability in a dynamic environment, while continuing to grow both personally and professionally.
What is an average day like for you as an ESG consultant?
Part of what I enjoy most in my role is high the level of autonomy and ownership I have over my work, along with a wide variety in my tasks that make each day quite different. Depending on client demands and the time of year, I am primarily focused on managing deliverables for my client accounts, which could include materiality assessments, third-party certifications, reporting, or submissions to sustainability frameworks such as GRESB. I also have a high volume of internal and external communication, and daily tasks involving data analysis and research.
What is the most challenging part of your current position? And the most rewarding?
While I find a variety of tasks in my work refreshing, it can also be a significant challenge. It’s necessary to be prepared to manage relationships with a diverse set of clients, sustainability frameworks and even internal functions; this underlines the importance of sound organization and preparation.
I also find it fulfilling to work alongside like-minded peers, much the same as I found at EADA, where I am surrounded by a team of impact-oriented people with a shared mission to make a difference through our collective work in sustainability.
How do you keep up with the latest trends in ESG?
This is a welcome, but increasingly difficult challenge as sustainable business practices continue to become more widely adopted. I follow several newsletters and use LinkedIn to track updates from sustainability leaders, both individuals and organizations, across sectors. I also try to keep up with regulatory changes from governments, at all levels, across the world, which ultimately takes shape in the form of reading dozens of emails and articles each week. Lastly, I pursue relevant professional certifications and training courses to both maintain and expand upon my skillset; through Goby I often have opportunities to take part in trainings.
How do you think the field will evolve over the next few years?
With so much rapid and significant change occurring constantly in sustainability, there are a lot of ways things could evolve. I see the evolution of sustainability as a ‘hope versus reality’ scenario and consider it a responsibility of sustainability professionals to bring the reality closer to our hope.
Some of my hopes are for increased regulation and policy to mitigate carbon emissions, deforestation and pollution. I also hope that recent trends expanding ESG investment will continue; however, addressing issues with greenwashing behind these investments will be crucial. Lastly, I hope to see a continued trend of resource integration and consolidation across sustainability frameworks.
What skills do you think are most important for someone interested in a position like yours?
In my eyes sustainability consulting is first and foremost about having the drive and passion to make a difference; if you have this, learning a new skill or dealing with adversity becomes much more feasible. Given the way sustainability is changing, continuous learning and the ability to deal with adversity are necessary abilities for a sustainability consultant to have. Other skills that are the most useful to me are effective communications and a high level of organization and attention to detail.
How do you use what you learned at EADA in your current position?
One of the things I appreciated most at EADA was being trained on both hard and soft skills, as both sets are necessary to succeed in consulting. I feel that EADA enabled me to improve my analytical skills, critical thinking and problem solving, while learning how to apply these skills within various frameworks. At EADA I also became accustomed to working in a diverse range of teams on a range of projects, while gaining confidence in adverse situations.
Most importantly, EADA guided me in applying my scientific background in sustainability within the context of modern business.
What advice do you have for students looking to get into consulting?
I would advise students to take advantage of the resources at EADA, focusing on preparation before beginning your job search. This could be getting help building your CV or joining student groups like the sustainability or consulting clubs to build your network and gain more experience.
Ultimately, I believe the most important contributor to success is taking care of yourself first – sustainability starts from within; if you are able to practice self-care you will be able to maintain your highest level of performance, as well as have a positive impact on those around you.