Sustainability track emerges for professionals
By Marsha Willard
International Society of Sustainability Professionals
Marsha Willard is executive director of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, a published author on the subject of sustainability and adjunct faculty member for the Presidio Graduate School and the Bainbridge Graduate Institute.
In response to a growing need to move the world toward sustainable development and sustainable practices, a whole new professional track has emerged in the last decade. In 2010, the International Society of Sustainability Professionals – the professional association that serves the needs of people working in this field – undertook a research study to answer the question, “What should a sustainability professional know how to do?” What we learned should inform everyone entering and working in this field.
The study surveyed about 400 professionals, most of whom were actively engaged in helping organizations implement the principles of sustainability. The heart of the survey focused on the challenges organizations were facing and the technical and “soft” skills that sustainability professionals need to address these challenges. The full study can be downloaded here.
The results of the study led ISSP to these conclusions:
- There is still a need for being able to explain sustainability in business terms and to craft a financial rationale for sustainability efforts. Building the case for sustainability is important not only to garner the support of leadership in an organization but also to manage the long-term roll out of projects and initiatives in a way that returns the best value to organizations.
- Systems thinking is critical to the application of sustainability principles to daily operations within an organization. Most initiatives cross traditional functional areas and require a whole systems view to both understand the interplay of processes and identify intervention strategies for best results.
- Skills at managing organizational change initiatives are imperative. These skills include communicating with stakeholder groups, developing comprehensive sustainability plans, managing complex projects, motivating teams, holding them accountable for results and keeping sustainability initiatives strategically positioned in the organization.
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