Should sustainability literacy be a graduate skill?

Feb 22, 2022 | Selection & assessment

Should sustainability knowledge and experience be recognised as a graduate skill, asks Steve Mowforth, knowledge and diversity specialist, Coventry University Talent Team.

Today, it seems that virtually all large graduate employers make public statements about their commitment to environmental sustainability.

As a career development professional working in higher education, I’ve been wondering how that ethos cascades into the recruitment process when the role in question is not directly sustainability-related: are there benefits to graduates in marketing their own sustainability-literacy skills and attributes irrespective of sector?


Sustainability literacy as part of the recruitment process

If that were the case one would expect it to be a formal consideration in the recruitment process: if not a selection criteria in and of itself, then at least for it to be of substantial benefit in evidencing commercial and corporate social responsibility awareness.

In my role I struggle with exactly how to pitch to students the value of developing and marketing environmental sustainability skills, knowledge and experience. In reality, how beneficial is that within the graduate recruitment process?

My sense is that generally it does make a difference. With the climate and ecological emergency (CEE) increasingly touching all aspects of society – and in particular its impact on reshaping the labour market – perhaps it is time for CEE-literacy to be more widely recognised as a graduate employability skill.


Graduates value companies with higher purpose

There is evidence that the values of today’s graduates tend to orientate towards higher purpose.

A 2021 report by Deloitte reveals that, “…younger generations want to work for companies with a purpose beyond profit…” and that, “…business leaders should actively help millennials and Gen Zs channel their determination and focus their efforts to create the future they seek…”

Also citing the Covid crisis, EY (2021) reported that the global pandemic has triggered Gen Z’s activism and, “redefined how they find meaning”.

The World Economic Forum (2020) points to the 300 French students who have pledged to restrict their career to environmentally conscious companies; and according to the 2020 Unily census, 64% of UK office-based workers say that they might reject a job offer from an employer with a poor environmental record.

I recently attended some training leading to certification from the Carbon Literacy Project. CLP training is increasingly being provided within commercial and educational organisations. It seems to me that nurturing a CEE-aware workforce can begin with the recruitment process and that hiring those who are already carbon literate would serve to benefit future-orientated commercial awareness and organisational culture.


Get involved in new research

I’m intending to supplement the informal enquiry I have done so far with a quantitative research project examining the occurrence of references to CEE-related terms in graduate level job advertisements. I’d be pleased to hear from ISE members who have any thoughts on this blog topic by emailing me at

Graduate skills and attributes will be discussed at this year’s ISE Student Development Conference taking place online 30 to 31 March.

ISE Student Development Conference 2022

Was this article helpful?


Share This