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Emerging Occupations

Sustainability Specialist

In general, sustainability specialists champion environmental best practices to help their team deliver a project that meets or exceeds green targets. They address issues such as waste-stream management, minimizing carbon footprints and environmental impact, green procurement practices, and achieving energy efficiency.

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

Updated Mar 31, 2019

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). To do this, they develop sustainability goals, standards, and practices for organizations.

Sustainability specialists focus mainly on the environment, buildings, and project management In general, they:

  • Consult with owners and clients to determine sustainability goals
  • Collaborate with other professionals to develop sustainability project goals, objectives, initiatives, or strategies
  • Establish and define key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Monitor or track sustainability indicators such as:
    • Environmental impact
    • Materials selection
    • Carbon impacts
    • Energy efficiency
  • Manage documentation related to certifications such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) certification
  • Manage complex projects and diverse teams of professionals
  • Co-ordinate public reviews and participate in public hearings on major projects
  • Research social and environmental trends, policies, and legislation
  • Conduct environmental audits (for more information, see the Environmental Auditor occupational profile)
  • Assess or propose sustainability initiatives that account for factors such as cost effectiveness and technical feasibility
  • Collect information and inform decision makers about:
    • Lifecycle impacts
    • Cradle-to-cradle technologies (products used, recycled, and used again without losing any material quality)
    • Sustainability best practices
  • Contribute professional services to developing and implementing sustainable community plans
  • Facilitate the development and implementation of resource management plans for noise, 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
  • Prepare a sustainability baseline report to measure performance for each of the company’s operations
  • Establish the company’s sustainability objectives, such as reducing emissions or waste generation


Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2019
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

Sustainability specialists primarily work in offices. They also may travel to other locations. They may travel 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.

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Sustainability specialists need:

  • Tact and persistence
  • A strong code of ethics
  • Communication, interpersonal, and facilitation skills
  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Ability to apply concepts directly to land-use planning
  • Strong organizational skills

They should enjoy having clear rules and guidelines for their work. They should enjoy analyzing and documenting data and finding innovative solutions to problems. They should be comfortable managing complex projects and directing the work of others. An interest in current affairs and the environment and a sense of public responsibility are assets.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary

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

This is typically not an entry-level position. However, people with project management skills may come into this role from an engineering, architecture, or science-based background. Sustainability specialists must be well informed 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 lifecycle analysis and sustainability index
  • General business and management functions
  • Organizational development and change
  • Environmental management systems, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

Most sustainability specialists have post-secondary education in environmental, architectural, engineering, or management fields. Employers generally prefer applicants with several years of related experience as well as related education and training.

For more information about post-secondary schools in Alberta that offer related degree programs, see the following occupational profiles:

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019
  • Certification Not Regulated

Some employers prefer to hire individuals with specialized certifications. Some examples of voluntary certifications include:

  • LEED Green Associate or Advanced Professional (LEED AP) specialty
  • Certified Passive House Designer
  • Certified Energy Manager
  • WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP)
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)
Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Emerging occupations typically are the result of:

  • An increased human need
  • Technological advances
  • Greater specialization within an occupation

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 it is unknown.

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

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

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment

Explore emerging workplace trends in Alberta that could affect this occupation.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Often there are too few people working in an emerging occupation to gather survey information. Therefore, no current provincial 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 Mar 31, 2019

Canadian Environmental Certification Approvals Board (CECAB) website:

ECO Canada website:

International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) website:

Canadian Green Building Council website:

Canadian Passive House Institute (CPHI) website:

Canadian Institute for Energy Training (CIET) website:

International WELL Building Institute website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2019. 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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