When you think of sustainability, what comes to mind? You might see sustainability as solving big environmental issues. Or, you might see it as an ever-evolving, complex, amorphous concept. So, when we imagine having a STEAM career with a sustainability focus, we can discount ourselves and imagine that sustainability is for the sustainability people! Yet, sustainability cuts across everything and is for everyone. Sustainability is about meeting our present needs without compromising resources for the future. You can advance sustainability goals in any tech role. Whether that be software engineering, sales, human resources, or anything else!
Many people in tech do not come from traditional STEAM backgrounds. Merene, for example, studied International Relations and African Studies. Kate studied Classical and Archaeological Studies and Hispanic Studies. There is a diverse range of technical and non-technical career paths that involve sustainability to varying degrees. Often, the need to drive sustainability usually comes down to an individual’s appetite to make an impact, and the organizational drive to effect system-wide change. STEM enables an individual’s passion for connecting the dots and solving big problems, and doing so sustainably is a core part of this.
“I’m a techie at heart. I have always been passionate about technology and how it impacts the world around us. I studied Computer Studies in High School at the IGSCE level (the international version of GCSEs). I did well at it, but I had few female role models then. I could not fathom how I could merge that with my drive to have an impact on society (which I was more drawn towards). After my university studies and various roles in sustainability in finance and non-profits, I can say I have finally found my niche at Lenovo! In my current role, I support salespeople and partners by elevating their knowledge of sustainability. I help them to structure their solutions and the impact of those solutions accordingly. As well as this, I enable them to amplify that knowledge onwards. I also assist internal teams to think about how our products and solutions can better address increasing global sustainability challenges and requirements and better reflect the changing needs of our customers and partners.” – Merene
Why is this work important? Because companies, as well as the people that constitute and interact with companies, are crucial to solving global sustainability challenges. For example, at Lenovo, we’re focused on providing smarter technology that builds a brighter, more sustainable future for our customers, colleagues, communities, and the planet. We think about our products from a lifecycle point of view, factoring in sustainability principles from design to use and after. We also:
- Use post-consumer recycled content in most of our devices.
- Vet most of our devices for accessibility and inclusivity.
- Ship most of our packaging with bio-based materials.
- Ensure there are options to reuse, recover value from, or dispose of old devices.
- Encourage cross-generational input in our sustainability efforts.
For example, we’ve launched a means of repurposing the packaging of our 100/300/500 series notebooks to encourage STEM activities in educational establishments worldwide. With these examples of what Lenovo does, you can see how sustainability is crucial to tech and vice versa.
One day you might be able to influence decision-making on advanced sustainability concepts. For now, you can ask questions like, is a company using the most energy-efficient code to fix a problem? Is their data hosted on the most energy-efficient devices? Are their devices accessible and inclusive? How are they advancing philanthropy? How can I factor such questions into my daily interactions? What about my own choices as I forge my tech path? How can I build better code? What relevant sustainability solutions can I create?
Scale things back and start small by starting locally. Make a dash of sustainable choices. Focus on little changes. Remember that you do not have to become a climate change activist to have sustainability ideals. You do not even have to think big to make an impact. Even a little progress in the right direction is better than nothing at all.
You do not have to have sustainability in your title to build it into your tech career. You can build a viable career based on sustainability if you want to be an active change agent.