The Path to Becoming a Sustainability Professional

Sustainability is no longer a fringe issue. Organizations and people who care about protecting our environment now outnumber the skeptics. Government and company policies are starting to reflect sustainable social expectations. The days of businesses chasing profit without considering environmental issues could be over soon. Many modern companies include corporate and social responsibility as a key component of their plans. Enhancing society and the environment rather than harming it is no longer a debate at many companies. At the very least, businesses do not want accusations around unsustainability to tarnish their brand image. What does this mean for you? There are many new opportunities for those interested in becoming sustainability professionals. Moreover, industries that were once unconcerned about their environmental impact are now seeking job applicants with sustainability qualifications. Employees in real estate, manufacturing, marketing and public relations, building, food science, the law, engineering, and teaching are adding sustainability credentials to their resumes. If you are passionate about creating a sustainable society, there are several things you can do to set you on the path.

Introductory Courses

One of the first things you can do to improve your sustainability credentials is to complete a course that imparts knowledge and skills in the discipline. Introductory environmental courses cover the fundamental concepts of sustainability and provide a strong base for future studies. Students build their understanding of the nuanced connections between society and the environment. There is also a focus on developing strategies to limit environmental impact. These are important skills for people working in diverse industries such as construction and marine biology or even social media and risk management.

In their mission statement, the United Nations Environment Programme identifies six key areas to focus on. The areas are leadership, disaster management, eco-system management, governance, harmful substances and resource efficiency. These broad areas underscore how sustainability now intersects almost all professional careers. For one thing, business leaders must consider sustainability in their business plans. Engineers and product managers must consider the environmental impact of their product designs. Lawyers and company managers must be aware of environmental laws to ensure compliance. People who work in marketing, human resources or public relations must understand sustainability to support corporate and social responsibility. The list goes on.

Sustainability influences how we go about our business. Having a fundamental understanding of sustainability practices is now an important responsibility for teams. Try taking an environmental course to get you started.

Advanced Courses

People who are eager about sustainability can take environmental science courses. These more advanced courses cover specialized concepts such as social, environmental or economic sustainability. Whether you are an architect, tradesperson, social researcher or financial accountant, the knowledge can help your career. Sustainability skills can improve your job performance and future prospects.

Policies to limit the impact of climate change continue to shape business philosophies. Integrating sustainability into the structure of organizations is more and more important. Understanding renewable energy, biodiversity, waste management and green building is becoming vital for many engineers, designers and builders.

One effect of social media is the immediate, negative impact when corporate brands slip up. Companies get slammed when their business practices are incompatible with sustainability philosophies. PWC Canada reports that their 2019 Consumer Insights survey, “clearly demonstrates that manufacturers and retailers need to pay attention to what consumers are saying about environmental sustainability if they’re going to keep current customers and attract new ones”. Does that mean sustainability affects customer loyalty? It is not enough to have a conversation about sustainability and make sure that employees do not make too many photocopies or leave the lights on. Employees need sustainability skills to do their jobs in a conscious and critical way. Businesses will hire qualified people to ensure they meet the expectations of their customers.

LEED Green Associate Certification

Aspiring sustainability professionals should also consider getting certified as a LEED Green Associate. What does that mean exactly? LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The Canada Green Building Council says that the “credential shows a clear commitment to your professional growth.” Furthermore, certification “[underscores] your value to LEED project teams and sustainability-focused organizations”. Certification is particularly necessary for people considering a career in the building industry. It also benefits people working in real estate, landscaping, marketing, sales, engineering or design.

To get certified, applicants must pass the LEED Green Associate Exam. The exam focuses on building practices and support services for LEED project teams. You can take the exam regardless of your occupation or past experience. However, some of the questions are quite technical and challenging. Taking a LEED green associate exam prep course is a great idea, especially if you are new to sustainability. Prep courses cover the LEED rating system, green building strategies, and energy and water efficiency. Students will also learn about environmental quality, sustainability thinking, and the certification process. Sustainability professionals who want higher LEED certifications must first pass the LEED Green Associate Exam.

ISO 9001 2015 Certification

Are you someone who cares a lot about quality? Consider ISO. The International Organisation for Standardisation is the largest quality management system in the world. The system regulates business practices to ensure rigorous processes, production and quality control. Impressively, over one million companies are certified by ISO. That said, the ISO 9001 certification training courses can be taken by individuals. Prospective sustainability professionals who get certified will make their resumes stand out. This highlights your credibility and training in quality management systems that ensure products and services meet regulatory and customer standards.

Where Do You Go From Here?

Sustainability policies will continue to impact the decisions made by governments and industry. Organizations are starting to work towards harmonizing the needs of society with the need to protect the environment.  For people hoping to advance their careers, Sustainability skills will become more and more important. Employees with a sustainability background are more attractive to businesses hoping to implement best practice strategies to maintain their legal commitments and to protect their brand image. Becoming a sustainability professional is no longer a niche in the job market. Around the world, people recognize that sustainability is a key to the future. Be proactive by adding sustainability credentials to your current resume. Many people are stepping up, not only to live in a sustainable world but to have a sustainable career.