Sustainability Officer

Sustainability Officers are in a multi-disciplinary field comprised of senior-level directors, officers or managers who communicate and coordinate with management, shareholders, customers and employees to address sustainability issues. These professionals oversee a comprehensive suite of activities related to reducing environmental impacts and applying sustainability principles.

At a Glance

Imagine standing in the main quad of a bustling university campus. As the new Sustainability Officer here, you’ll develop a campus-wide program to encourage environmental stewardship and energy conservation. This initiative includes expanding the university’s existing research on applied environmental science and policy and an ongoing community outreach program to raise awareness about sustainability issues.

Since your role is central to public perceptions about the university, you will report directly to the university’s President. Even though it is still your first week on the job, you have a full, fast-paced day ahead of you. You’ll lead several meetings with stakeholders to get more information on their needs and expectations for the university’s sustainability programs. You’re also planning to finish your research on a cost-benefit analysis for the program and start writing a grant proposal to ensure enough funding is available to support upcoming program additions.

You know you are up to the challenge of this new role as a sustainability officer. Throughout your past work experience, you have developed strong skills in leadership, strategic thinking and connecting different departments and teams. These abilities will help you excel as you support the university’s goal of long-term, financially feasible sustainability projects.

Job Duties

Job duties vary significantly from one position to the next, but in general, sustainability officers are involved in the following job duties:

  • Create a strategy for sustainability in organizations with an accompanying mission or vision and clear operating principles.
  • Build short and long-range operational planning that incorporates sustainability practices.
  • Act as an internal sustainability consultant in the organization to educate colleagues on emerging trends, programs and issues in sustainability.
  • Directly manage all aspects of sustainability initiatives and programs, including administration of office, staff and budgets.
  • Manage sustainable activities such as recycling, energy efficiency, and water conservation.
  • Analyze current policies, costs and benefits associated with implementing sustainable practices in an organization.
  • Develop and implement systems to measure the progress of sustainability initiatives.
  • Fundraise (especially grant writing) to support sustainability projects.
  • Engage with a variety of stakeholders to ensure that their input is reflected in your organization’s sustainability policy.
  • Conduct audits and develop quality management and assurance based on client needs.
  • Ensure internal compliance with regulations.
  • Assess buildings on the level of current efficiency and evaluate the effectiveness of sustainability programs.

Work Environment

Sustainability officers work in a variety of locations, including:

The office:

  • Perform administrative activities to manage staff and budgets.
  • Develop, implement and evaluate your organization’s sustainability programs.
  • Write reports for upper management about the progress of sustainability projects.
  • Conduct research to identify new funding sources and write grant proposals to request additional funding sources.
  • Analyze large datasets to determine where clients use inefficient methods or processes.
  • Communicate with clients on their specific needs.
  • Recommend clients new social, economic, or environmental sustainability policies and procedures.
  • Monitor changes to environmental legislation and regulations.

The field:

  • Attend training seminars to stay up-to-date with new developments in sustainability policy, practices and technology.
  • Participate in stakeholder engagement meetings to assess the needs and interests of clients.
  • Promote sustainable practices in various workplaces.
  • Supervise researchers and technicians performing on-site assessments.
  • Monitor the energy consumption and emission levels of the client’s operations.
  • Provide sustainability training for employees, managers, and other stakeholders.


Where to Work

Sustainability Officers are usually employed by:

  • Municipal, provincial and federal governments
  • Post-secondary educational institutions
  • Environmental professional or advocacy organizations
  • Large corporations that have incorporated sustainability into their core business activities
  • Utility companies
  • Natural resource extraction corporations, including those in oil & gas, mining, and forestry

Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.

Education and Skills


Most sustainability officers have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in the following areas:

  • Environmental Policy
  • Law (specializing in Environmental Law)
  • Business or Public Administration
  • Urban Planning
  • Sustainable or Green Business Management
  • Engineering

In addition to the fields of study mentioned above, sustainability officers also need extensive management experience. Current sustainability practitioners can boost their soft skills for a future sustainability officer role with professional development courses in:

  • Public speaking and presenting
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Organizational management
  • Human resources management
  • Staff management
  • Financial management or budgeting

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career.


Technical Skills

  • Project management/design
  • Environmental health and safety standards
  • Resource management
  • Interpret policy and legislation
  • Customer relationship management
  • Knowledge of types of sustainability certifications and environmental regulations.

Personal and Professional Skills

  • Time management
  • Self-starting
  • Spoken and written communication
  • Leadership
  • Organizational skills
  • Analytical thinking
  • Strategic planning

Environmental employers seek professionals who combine technical knowledge with personal and professional 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

Many of us consciously try to make efforts in our daily lives to create a more sustainable environment, from swapping plastic bottles for reusable ones to hopping on trains and exploring on foot. But all those changes are based on choices that we make on our own - so what about big firms with hundreds of employees? How can they ensure a sustainable workplace?

While finding solutions to sustainability concerns can feel overwhelming on a bigger scale, like a business, a sustainability officer is always up for the challenge. In this role, you help with the implementation process and the monitoring and evaluation of each project to ensure that sustainable practices continue in the long term.

Here are just a few ways a sustainability officer can help spaces become more sustainable:

  1. Compliance: Sustainability officers ensure that any programs initiated to improve sustainability are organized in such a way that complies with regulations. This can include adhering to building capacities and fire hazards and monitoring levels of negative emissions.
  2. Efficiency: Sustainability officers help improve building efficiencies through energy savings, waste reduction, and recycling. You can see improvements to building efficiencies through sensors to reduce wasting water in bathrooms or turning off lights automatically in rooms whenever we forget to do so.
  3. Innovation: in your day-to-day work as a sustainability officer, you use your creativity to transform spaces into innovative and sustainable environments that not only improve employees' productivity but facilitate discussions on simple ways to ensure a positive environmental impact.

Occupational Classification

Sustainability specialists may be classified into the following occupational grouping:

NOC Code: 41400 – Natural and applied science policy researchers, consultants and program officers

What is an 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 and describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

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