Sustainability Consultant

What is a sustainability consultant? A sustainability consultant works within the environmental sustainability discipline which explores the ways in which human activity and the environment can interact to meet the needs of today without jeopardizing the future. Sustainability is built on three pillars – economic, social, and environmental – each of which is important.

At a Glance

Imagine you are standing among the gently rolling hills of Ontario’s wine country, surrounded by grapevine trellises of an award-winning winery. You are a sustainability analyst at a consulting and software design firm that develops software programs to help companies measure, monitor and report on their CO2 and other Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

Your client is a forward-thinking winery that contracted your employer to determine their baseline carbon footprint and recommend effective strategies to reduce their carbon output.

During your visit to the winery, you will measure your client’s resource consumption. Then, you will analyze the results by using a series of unit conversion factors that will indicate their baseline carbon footprint.

Back at the office, you will work with your team to develop a software program that the winery can use to track energy use and emissions. The new program will be a critical tool to help the winery achieve its Climate Smart carbon-neutral certification.

In the coming months, you will continue to work closely with the winery. You will be providing recommendations on energy auditing, using biodiesel in winery transport vehicles, and upgrading to energy efficient equipment.

As a sustainability consultant, you make a positive difference through the implementation of socially responsible and cost-effective changes that lower the environmental impact of their operations.

Job Duties

While job duties vary significantly from one position to the next, sustainability consultants are frequently asked to conduct the following activities:

  • Consult with clients to develop assessment plans, appropriate goals and effective solutions
  • Analyze the operations of clients through the collection of performance data (energy modelling, daylighting analysis, thermal comfort, envelope performance, etc.)
  • Identify and develop sustainability and energy conservation measures including calculations to demonstrate benefits (life cycle costing, energy and energy cost savings, incentives, emissions, ROI, etc.)
  • Prepare clear and concise written reports that convey technical information, understanding of the client’s needs and objectives and recommendations to meet these objectives
  • Research best practices, new technologies and incentive programs related to sustainability, corporate social responsibility and environmental monitoring
  • Recommend effective corporate social responsibility initiatives for clients and your employer
  • Develop policies and procedures to improve a client’s environmental awareness and reduce negative environmental impacts
  • Attend networking opportunities such as seminars and conferences
  • Design programs and processes to help client mitigate environmental risks
  • Conduct activities related to various environmental programs
  • Actively network with potential clients and other professionals in the environmental sector
  • Attend meetings and travel for onsite assessments as required
  • Adhere to municipal, provincial, and federal regulations, and legal requirements

Work Environment

Sustainability consultant jobs take place in a variety of locations, including:

The office:

  • Conducting online research activities to learn about issues facing clients and actively engaging in problem-solving exercises to develop creative solutions
  • Analyzing large data sets with spreadsheet software to determine where clients may be using inefficient methods or processes
  • Communicating with clients to determine their specific needs.
  • Recommending new social, economic, or environmental sustainability policies and procedures to clients
  • Calculating the energy consumption and emission levels for a client’s operations.

The field:

  • Attending training seminars and conferences to network with other environmental professionals and stay abreast of new technologies in the sector
  • Meeting with current or prospective clients to understand what they require from your company’s consulting services
  • Performing audits and site assessments for areas of needed change
  • Monitoring the energy consumption of various aspects of a client’s operations
  • Making sales presentations or presenting findings to clients and interested stakeholders
  • Providing sustainability training for employees, managers or other stakeholders

Where to Work

Most sustainability consultants work at consulting firms that operate in a niche field. As a result, sustainability consultants typically work for:

  • Software development firms
  • Independent consulting firms
  • Property management firms
  • Engineering services firms
  • Conservation organizations
  • Green (LEED) building design and construction companies
  • Agro-business firms
  • Renewable and fossil fuel consulting firms
  • Utility companies

Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Boad

Education and Skills

If you are considering a career as a sustainability consultant, you should have a strong interest in:

  • Mathematics
  • Biology
  • English
  • Chemistry

In most cases, the minimum education requirement is a university undergraduate degree.

Sustainability consultants are often hired by consulting firms upon graduation, so this is a great occupation for early career professionals.

If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a sustainability consultant, the following programs are most applicable:

  • Mathematics
  • Environmental Science
  • Urban Planning
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Systems Design
  • Architecture
  • Building Systems Engineering
  • Building Sustainability

To demonstrate their professional credibility to prospective clients and employers, many sustainability consultants also hold post-graduate degrees, certificates or professional designations, such as ECO Canada’s Environmental Professional Certification (EP), or becoming a LEED Certified member.

Becoming a Certified Management Consultant is considered an asset in recent job postings. It is also recognized in over 40 countries around the world.

Find out more about becoming a Certified Management Consultant.


Hard/ Technical Skills (obtained through formal education and training programs)

  • Microsoft Office
  • Health, safety and environmental assessment
  • Risk assessment
  • Quality control analysis
  • Business process modeling
  • Discipline-specific software
  • Knowledge of environmental legislation/regulation/policy

Soft Skills (attributes and characteristics)

  • Self-starter attitude
  • Verbal and written communication
  • Project management
  • Detail-oriented
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Client focused
  • Originality
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management
  • Continuous learning
  • Decision making
  • Mentoring

Environmental employers look for professionals who can combine technical knowledge with soft skills. Watch our free webinar “Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry” or take our Essential Skills courses.

Role Models

Your Impact

Companies rely on sustainability consultants for expert guidance on how to lower their carbon footprint, develop environmentally friendly products, and comply with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building standards. Many of these professionals have a background in engineering or sciences, such as biology, chemistry or earth sciences.

Most sustainability consultants work either on a team in an environmental consulting firm or alone as independent consultants.

Firms, non-profit organizations, and government agencies – with the support of sustainability consultants – can develop sustainable business practices to minimize their environmental footprint and increase profits and efficiency.

Change doesn’t happen overnight and, as a sustainability consultant, you are aware of that. In your work, you endeavour to help clients improve organizational environmental performance in the long run. This provides opportunities for in-depth research into effective solutions.

You have a strong interest in environmental stewardship and, at the same time, you are an analytical thinker and problem solver. Your skills and expertise enable you to guide clients towards a more sustainable future.

Sustainability benefits organizations in multiple ways. From an environmental perspective, your work helps organizations reduce the environmental impact of their activities.

From an economic perspective, your work may allow organizations to reduce costs by finding ways to use resources (human capital, physical capital and/or financial capital) more efficiently.

Lastly, from a social perspective, knowledge of sustainable practices helps ensure that companies are aware of how their business practices affect their employees, customers, and local communities.

Occupational Classification

Individuals employed as sustainability consultants may be classified in one or more of the following occupational groupings:

NOC Code: 1122 - Professional Occupations in Business Management Consulting

NOC Code: 2171 - Information Systems Analysts and Consultants

NOC Code: 4163 - Business Development Officers and Marketing Researchers and Consultants

NOC Code: 4164 - Social Policy Researchers, Consultants, and Program Officers

What is a NOC Code?

The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data, describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

The NOC is developed and updated in partnership with Statistics Canada to coincide with the 5- year census cycles. It is based on in-depth occupational research and consultations conducted across Canada, to reflect changes in the Canadian labour market.

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