Green Jobs as a Sustainability Specialist - dummies

Green Jobs as a Sustainability Specialist

By Carol L. McClelland

The move from business as usual to sustainable business is underway. A career transition into the green economy may put you at the heart of this change as a sustainability specialist. Such a job could allow you to put eco-conscious ideals into action through assessment, education, and communications, among other possibilities. Sound good? Focus your green job search in this field with the help of the information here.

Although the specifics of the transition may differ depending on the actual focus of the organization, the process and approach remain fairly consistent, including the following components:

  • Assessing an organization’s social and environmental impact may include measuring the organization’s carbon footprint and the extent to which the company impacts its community. With the shortcomings in mind, the next step is to create a multi-faceted action plan to reduce emissions and minimize the impact on the community. After implementing the plan, monitoring the results allows the organization to continue to refine its actions to meet overall goals for sustainability.

  • Training and educating those involved in the process of evaluating current systems and finding more energy- and resource-efficient ways to perform the tasks of the organization are essential for employee engagement and participation.

  • Communicating the impact and progress through a sustainability report allows various stakeholders to understand the organization’s green efforts. Incorporating the initiatives and actions into the marketing plan and public relations is also key.

Companies worldwide are making the extra effort to report on their environmental performance based on a widely used reporting system developed by the Global Reporting Initiative. As more companies adopt this standardized reporting framework, companies are able to assess their improvement over time and compare their efforts with those of other companies.

As companies assess their impact on the environment and community, they must decide who will actually implement the initiatives associated with improving their sustainability status. Some organizations hire a consultant who provides the facilitation and structure to help the organization determine where they stand on a variety of environmental criteria. In some cases organizations hire from within, finding a current employee who is interested in efficiency and environmental issues or who has line experience in a key area of the organization. This individual’s title may range from sustainability manager to chief sustainability officer (CSO). The field is so young that the role of the CSO often varies across organizations as different companies figure out the best way to address their impact on the environment.

Sustainability is also influencing other sectors of our economy besides big business. Several nonprofit associations have been working toward sustainability for many years, such as the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. Both sites offer a wealth of information about sustainability in general and as applied to their niche. Even small- and medium-sized companies are getting into the act with the help of sustainability consultants, such as Strategic Sustainability Consulting.

Although you’ve probably heard of sustainability initiatives in manufacturing, local municipalities, and retail stores, you may not have thought of sustainability efforts in the entertainment field, the medical field, and your local brewery. Nearly every industry out there is exploring sustainability to some degree. Just because you haven’t heard of it yet doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Use your favorite search engine to discover how your target industry is going green. Enter “your target industry” + green to see what you find.

Some potential jobs in this field include chief sustainability officer, sustainability account manager, sustainability integration director, resource architect, business sustainability consultant, sustainability coordinator, corporate sustainability manager, sustainability outreach specialist, director of sustainability, director of sustainability advocacy, environmental program manager, life cycle practitioner, sustainability analyst, and sustainability assistant.