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Emerging Occupations

Sustainability Specialist

In general, sustainability specialists address issues such as waste stream management, green building practices and green procurement practices in organizations and communities.

This is an emerging occupation. It may have evolved from an existing occupation or emerged in response to consumer needs or technological advances.

  • Avg. Salary N/A
  • Avg. Wage N/A
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
Updated Dec 20, 2016

Organizations that strive to have a positive relationship with the global and local environment, community, society and economy are practising sustainability. Sustainability specialists help organizations achieve a triple bottom line (accountable to people, planet and profit) by developing sustainability goals, standards and practices for organizations. In general, they:

  • consult with businesses, governments and special interest groups
  • coordinate public reviews and participate in public hearings on major projects
  • research social and environmental trends, policies and legislation
  • develop sustainability project goals, objectives, initiatives or strategies in collaboration with other professionals
  • conduct environmental audits (for more information, see the Environmental Auditor occupational profile)
  • monitor or track sustainability indicators such as community impact, supply chain impacts, energy usage, natural resource usage, waste generation and recycling
  • assess or propose sustainability initiatives that take into consideration factors such as cost effectiveness and technical feasibility
  • collect information about life cycle impacts, cradle to cradle technologies (products used, recycled and used again without losing any material quality) and sustainability best practices to inform decision makers
  • contribute professional services to the development and implementation of sustainable community plans
  • facilitate the development and implementation of resource management plans for water, land and energy
  • create or maintain plans and develop reports or presentations related to sustainability initiatives and their results
  • create business cases to persuade decision makers to make sustainable choices
  • identify or procure needed resources to implement sustainability programs or projects
  • manage complex projects and diverse teams of professionals.
Working Conditions
Updated Dec 20, 2016

Sustainability specialists primarily work in offices but also may travel to other locations to consult with stakeholders, facilitate groups or gather information. Consultations with stakeholder groups may be held during the day, after regular work hours or on weekends. Therefore, working days can be long and irregular.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 20, 2016

Sustainability specialists need the following personal characteristics:

  • an interest in current affairs and the environment
  • a sense of public responsibility and a strong code of ethics
  • tact and persistence
  • the ability to communicate persuasively and promote their ideas
  • the ability to critically collect, analyze and manage information and make logical, timely decisions
  • the ability to build consensus and communicate effectively in writing and in person
  • the ability to form, manage and facilitate diverse groups
  • the ability to work independently as well as work effectively with others from different disciplines.

They should enjoy having clear rules and guidelines for their work, analyzing data and finding innovative solutions to problems and directing the work of others.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 20, 2016

Most emerging occupations develop from more than one occupation, so sustainability specialists may come from a variety of education and training backgrounds. Prior to enrolling in an education program, prospective students should contact associations and employers in this field to investigate education options and employment possibilities.

This is not an entry-level position. Sustainability specialists must be knowledgeable about:

  • social, economic and environmental impacts, issues and strategies
  • environmental management methods and techniques and related legislation and regulations
  • energy conversion, conservation, materials science and renewable energy at a general scientific and engineering level
  • general life cycle analysis and sustainability index
  • general business and management functions
  • organizational development and change.

Most sustainability specialists have post-secondary education in environmental, scientific, engineering or management fields. Employers generally prefer to hire applicants who have several years of related experience in addition to related education and training.

For more information about post-secondary schools in Alberta that offer degree programs related to:

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Dec 20, 2016

Certification is not required, as there is currently no legislation regulating this occupation.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 20, 2016

Emerging occupations typically are the result of:

  • an increased human need (for example, alternate sources of energy)
  • technological advances
  • greater specialization within an occupation.

Sustainability specialists also are emerging because of an increased need for communities and organizations to incorporate triple bottom line (people, planet and profit) accounting, life cycle accounting, sustainability planning and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards, natural resource management and sustainability principles.

Often there are too few people working in an emerging occupation to gather survey information. Therefore, it can be difficult to define advancement opportunities or employment outlook. Some Albertans already are working in this emerging occupation, but future demand for sustainability specialists is unknown.

Sustainability specialists may be employed by or work on a contract basis for:

  • industrial manufacturing or production facilities
  • retail, finance and insurance corporations
  • universities, colleges and research institutions
  • laboratories involved in energy conservation or sustainability activities
  • utility companies
  • government departments.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.
Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 20, 2016

Often there are too few people working in an emerging occupation to gather survey information. Therefore, no current salary data is available for this occupation.

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Business, Management and Administrative Studies
  • Communications
  • Education and Library Studies
  • Engineering and Science Technologies
  • Engineering, Architecture and Related Studies
  • Environment, Forestry and Related Studies
  • Sciences
  • Social Sciences, Law and Religious Studies
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 20, 2016

Canadian Environmental Certification Approvals Board (CECAB) website:

ECO Canada website:

International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) website:

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Supports Centre near you.

Updated Mar 26, 2016. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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