Sustainability Practitioners Striving to Keep Up with the Profession

Sustainability as a profession is a relatively new concept, with practitioners of diverse backgrounds taking a broad range of roles across government, institutions and private enterprise. The study, “Sustainability: Dynamics Drive Growth,” released today by the Sustainable Plant and International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) and examines the qualifications and proficiencies of today’s practitioners and finds remarkable disparities between typical education and training, and the skills required of an effective sustainability professional.

“For example, energy management is often a first step selected by corporations to improve their sustainability, as it results in energy conservation, environmental benefits like lower GHG emissions and financial savings,” said Lyle Landon, publisher, Sustainable Plant. “Today’s sustainability personnel are seeking out additional education and training for their next area of focus, whether it is lighting, supply chain sourcing, zero-waste initiatives, etc.”

The study surveyed individuals who support or manage sustainability-related activities, including professional sustainability managers or coordinators, environmental health and safety officers, corporate social responsibility officers, and others who do planning, research, assessment, training or management in this field. It also included plant managers, engineers and consultants who work on sustainability-related activities, as well as professors.

Among the major conclusions:

  • The sustainability profession is young with only 11% of those surveyed having more than 20 years of sustainability experience; 67% have less than 10 years of experience.
  • Sustainability is a journey for both the practitioner and the organization.  There is a continuum that organizations and practitioners move along as their understanding, expertise, and skill base increases.
  • Sustainability professionals are well educated, with 85% having at least a bachelor’s degree and 55% an additional higher degree. Some 47% are currently enrolled in continuing education programs, most of which are related to sustainability, and almost 80% intend to pursue additional sustainability-related training.
  • The most common training obtained doesn’t match the skill sets that are considered most important to be a successful sustainability professional.

“While there may seem to be a disconnect of having highly educated sustainability personnel who feel that they do not have the skills needed for their current job, it should be noted that almost half are currently attaining additional training, and 80% expect to seek additional training in the future,” said Dorothy Atwood, resource manager, ISSP. “The sustainability sector is projected to grow and to continue to attract personnel who like to learn, which also bodes well for educators, consultants and training facilities concentrating on sustainability professional development.”

For an executive summary of the survey results.

Relevant Tags career, skills,

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