Dynamic Reinvention: Sustainability Professionals Seek More Training As Responsibilities Evolve

Practitioners Striving to Define the Sustainability Profession
Feb 7, 2013 4:15 PM ET

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PORTLAND, OR and CHICAGO, IL, February 7, 2013 /3BL Media/ - Sustainability as a profession is relatively new, with practitioners of diverse backgrounds taking a broad range of roles across government, institutions and private enterprise. The study, “Sustainability: Dynamics Drive Growth,”  released earlier this week by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) and Sustainable Plant, a resource for improving sustainability of industrial facilities, examines the qualifications and proficiencies of today’s practitioners and finds remarkable disparities between typical education and training, and the skills considered most important to be 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, visit this page from ISSP or download the file from Sustainable Plant.

About the International Society of Sustainability Professionals

The International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) is the world's leading professional association for sustainability professionals. ISSP is a member-driven association committed to moving the profession of sustainability forward through building strong networks and communities of practice. Formed in 2007, ISSP boasts more than 700 members from every continent in the world. Members share resources and best practices, and professional development. Webinars, webchats, on-line courses, special reports, resource directories, salary surveys, and a professional competency study are just a sampling of the rich content offered to members. ISSP Conference 2013 will be held May 8-10 in Chicago. For more information about ISSP, its offerings and the upcoming ISSP Conference 2013, please visit http://sustainabilityprofessionals.org/.

About Sustainable Plant

Sustainable Plant is dedicated to improving the sustainability of manufacturing and other industrial operations to the long-term benefit of society. Through its web site, e-newsletters, publications and community, Sustainable Plant offers actionable advice and resources to help make industrial facilities clean, safe, efficient, profitable, compliant and closed-loop – in short, Sustainable Plant supports an industrial triple bottom line of economic growth, environmental stewardship and social progress summarized as, “Operating our business in ways that meet the needs of the present without compromising the world we leave to the future.” To access information, join our community and subscribe to our publications, visit www.SustainablePlant.com.