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To many, though they recognize their importance, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a distant concept that holds little relevance to daily life. They certainly wouldn’t consider embarking on sustainable internships.

This is unfortunate in more ways than one. Not only do internships in sustainability empower you to contribute to vital causes and help make the world a better place, they can actually serve as an incredibly useful tool for young career launchers.

What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals? In a sense, they’re a map of the most employable, exciting, and meaningful career paths of the future—and sustainability internships are how you can explore them!

In this blog, we’ll answer the question ‘What are SDGs?’ and explain how you can use sustainable development internships to explore career paths where you can help achieve them.

What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals? A section of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development outlines a 17-point plan for peace and prosperity for people and the planet.

Adopted by all 193 countries of the UN in 2015, these 17 goals address the issues deemed to be most detrimental to the actualization of a fairer, greener world. These include pledges to abolish hunger and poverty, provide quality healthcare and education for all, switch to renewable, clean energy resources, and protect wildlife on land and below water.

They represent the largest ever unified effort to address humanity’s greatest threats.

Volunteer at Christian Khayo- Greenpop Reforest Fest

Why You Should Care about SDGs When Looking for an Internship

Now that you can answer the question ‘What are SDGs?’, you’ll want to know what they have to do with finding an internship.

We should all care about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, but career launchers have another incentive—the amazing internship opportunities available!

Not only are sustainable development internships some of the most exciting programs available, they offer a number of unique benefits too. Let’s get into it.

1. Future-proofed Employability

In order to keep on track with the 2030 Agenda, countries will need to invest heavily in related industries. This will create a huge demand for certain skills and professions and generate a wealth of new job opportunities.

Nowhere is this more true than in the renewable energy industry. The ILO’s Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2023 revealed that global renewable jobs have increased by 1 million in the last year to reach 13.7 million, and they’re predicted to continue growing exponentially.

This is why sustainability internships for undergraduates are such a good idea. Sustainability is becoming increasingly important across industries. By gaining experience in sustainable development, you’ll be better prepared to navigate the evolving job market. Sustainable internships are the best way to set you up for tomorrow’s world of work.

2. Career Exploration

As more funding is directed towards these industries, technologies are created, and projects supporting sustainable development goals proliferate, new opportunities arise. Internships in sustainability offer crucial industry insight, letting you make informed career decisions.

What’s more, the careers you’ll get to explore during a sustainability internship are incredibly exciting. Internships related to the SDGs span a wide range of industries and sectors, from renewable energy to healthcare to education.

With our SDG-oriented programs, you can explore a range of academic focuses and do incredible things like study endemic species of the Amazon Rainforest, monitor dolphin tours off the coast of Zanzibar, or develop urban agriculture on the Galapagos Islands.

3. Valuable Skill-Building

Skill shortages are one of the greatest obstacles to be overcome in the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It’s estimated that for Europe to reach its climate goals, 18 million people will need to be reskilled. Accompanying this, approximately 6 million jobs will be displaced.

Sustainable internships are your chance to build a future-proof skillset, priming you for the coming shifts in the professional landscape. Interns gain familiarity with cutting edge tools and technology, understand prescient global issues, and develop specialist knowledge of their field.

4. CV Enhancement

What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals going to do for your CV? Regardless of your career path, sustainable internships will give your CV a substantial boost. Of course, if you’re pursuing a career in fields related to sustainable development, having sustainable development internships on your CV will communicate to employers that you have practically developed specialist skills and knowledge.

More than this, in any career field, showing awareness and commitment to important global issues is an attractive quality for employers. By choosing an internship with a focus on the SDGs, you’re aligning yourself with socially responsible organizations and building a positive reputation for yourself as a responsible and conscientious professional.

This is also one of the top reasons to do a nonprofit internship.

Sustainability-focused volunteers working on a project in an office space

5. Networking Opportunities

Internships in sustainability place you at the forefront of humanity’s greatest challenges, working on globally significant projects. Beyond the experience itself, internships related to the SDGs often involve collaboration with diverse stakeholders, including governments, NGOs, and businesses.

This provides an excellent opportunity to expand your professional network and build connections with like-minded individuals passionate about sustainable development. Moreover, industries relating to sustainable development are keen to find young talent. This means there are fantastic networking opportunities in sustainability internships for undergraduates.

The value of networking opportunities is one of the key internship takeaways we hear most from our interns. The people you meet during your internship could be future employers, colleagues, or mentors.

6. Personal Growth

The chance to pursue your passion through internships in sustainability and the profound effect it can have on you should not be underestimated. It can play a role in shaping an intern’s career and their entire life trajectory.

Sustainable internships are an opportunity to travel, opening your mind to new cultures and ways of life, facing and overcoming new challenges, and building confidence, ingenuity, and resilience. You’ll develop global awareness, cross-cultural communication skills, and problem-solving abilities, all of which are valuable for personal and professional growth.

More than anything, they let you contribute to something much greater than yourself and make a truly positive difference in the world. Your contributions, no matter how small, have the potential to create ripple effects that contribute to achieving the SDGs by 2030.

7. Meaningful Work

What are the SDGs? A blueprint for a more sustainable and equitable future and a list of the most meaningful causes in the world. By getting involved in sustainable development internships, you’re contributing to long-term solutions that benefit both current and future generations.

Knowing that your work is making a positive difference in the world helps you discover a sense of purpose in your career, leading to greater job fulfillment throughout your professional work.

The greatest thing about sustainable internships is that the benefits aren’t felt by just the intern or the host organization, but by the communities and causes they serve too. With sustainability internships for undergraduates, you can help to save a species from extinction, provide basic WASH systems for rural communities, or build homes for impoverished families.

Volunteer smiling and holding two plants in her hands.

How to Make Sure Your Internship is Sustainable

Sustainable internships can be a gateway to fulfilling, meaningful career paths, but not all are created equal. There are a number of ethical considerations to make when deciding whether or not sustainability internships are for you

So, how can you assess the sustainability of your internships? Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating potential sustainable development internships:

  • What’s the carbon footprint of the travel for your internship abroad, and can you reduce or offset it?
  • Does your host organization’s overall mission align with your values?
  • What are the aims of the project, and how will its impact be measured?
  • How has your host organization engaged with local communities, and how have local communities responded to their presence?
  • Is your project disruptive to local ways of life, or does it promote a western-centric homogenization of culture?
  • How will the work from your internship be sustained after you leave?
Group of sustainable volunteers standing together for a photo

Explore Sustainable Internships with Roots

Even the staunchest advocates of the SDGs can find it difficult to meaningfully contribute to their causes. Sustainable Internships are the avenue to do just this, plus so much more. Not only will you help to make the world a better place, you’ll also learn valuable skills

If you’re interested in searching for your own sustainable internships, trust Roots to be your guide. We have an array of opportunities to join innovative, purpose-driven projects working towards sustainable development goals, and all our programs are designed around valuable exchanges of skills. So, the impact of our internships can be felt by both the interns and host organizations.

Browse All Available Non Profit Internships Abroad

This blog was written by Tom Rusbridge and edited by Eric Monteres Jamarr Black