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A career in sustainability consulting at PwC: making positive change happen every day

21 Jun 2023, 15:41

After working for green start-ups Katherine returned to university to improve her knowledge and skills, so she could make a greater impact on halting climate change and to protect the environment. Now a Senior Associate in the Sustainability Consulting team at PwC UK, she explains what drives her career.

Katherine PwC sustainability consultant

What made you want to work in sustainability and why did you join PwC?

Being someone who loves the outdoors, the environment is really woven into my everyday life. It’s also become a big topic globally - one that’s too big to ignore. I knew sustainability was going to become so important that every business and government would need to consider it in their plans. In the past, many organisations have placed their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies and practices low on their agenda but we’re increasingly seeing these become a much higher priority. Change needs to happen – and is happening – and we all have a part to play, whatever age we are, whatever position we’re in.

I had particular reasons for applying to work at PwC following my masters in corporate environment management. Firstly, PwC’s big appeal over other firms was its strong reputation for the calibre of the work it does and its reputation for how it treats its people. Secondly, PwC’s sustainability practice isn’t new; joining gave me the opportunity to work with huge clients from day one and learn from people who are proficient in this field. The team I work with are market-leading in the industry.

What do you do day to day?

I provide advice to a variety of different clients on a variety of different topics. For example, I have been involved in the implementation of a leading real estate developer and investor’s net zero strategy; I’ve researched ESG impact due diligence for private equity firms; I’ve looked at stakeholders’ top priority ESG issues for a global food and beverage manufacturer and producer – which helps guide those priorities back into the company’s strategy. Currently I’m looking at UK climate regulation – the task force on climate-related financial disclosures, or TCFD. Organisations report their climate-related financial opportunities and potential risks to their business; these were once voluntary reports that are becoming mandatory.

Do you go home every day feeling the difference you’ve made?

I do feel I am contributing to a larger goal. It’s nice to think about the potential impact your work has, though of course, some days are busy and you’re just getting on with it. I really enjoy being with the people that I work with, from my team to my external clients.

Please describe your career progression

My career started unusually because I had secured an internship with PwC in summer 2020, but due to COVID-19 the internship was cancelled, so I was able to interview directly for an associate role.

When you start here, the responsibilities and projects that you get involved with are huge, but you’re not left to do tasks alone. You have a team to support you and you’re encouraged to reach out for help across the PwC network. People are happy to upskill you. You can go on external courses to refine your knowledge or learn from PwC’s own people with the relevant experience. You’re also assigned a buddy who is up to two years ahead of you, and ask them anything from ‘where’s the coffee machine?’ to ‘how do I use this software?’ You’re also assigned a career coach who is a few grades above you to take you through more official elements of the role, for example, ‘how can I develop these skills?’ or ‘how can I progress in the way I want to?’ On top of that, the project team you work with can offer you specialist knowledge. PwC encourages us – especially at associate and senior associate level – to have a breadth of experience, to find our skill sets and see where we align as we discover what we enjoy.

What are the skills and attributes that have helped you most?

I always bring enthusiasm and curiosity to a project. PwC is a network firm – it is all about the people – so having an ability to communicate effectively and interact with people is crucial. What I’ve developed since joining are general leadership skills, driving projects and managing people. I have an appreciation for working towards a common goal within a team and the role that I play. My advice to new joiners is to make sure that you’re willing to learn, to be diligent and hardworking, to manage your time effectively, and to stick to deadlines, because they are key.

What advice would you give students and graduates considering an application to PwC in sustainability?

Gain as much experience as you can where you are now, be that through volunteering, your degree or your education. Make sure to highlight this experience, no matter how big or small, during the application process. There are ambitions to grow our team so tailor your experience to PwC’s professional framework. It seems like a big application process as you are going through it but try to relax and feel comfortable. You may be just who they are looking for.

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