Sustainability Specialist

Sustainability specialists help their organizations comply with national, provincial and local environmental regulations, while also ensuring their organization functions in a financially viable and socially responsible manner. These practitioners interpret and develop procedures to meet environmental regulatory requirements, establish sustainability strategies and programs, communicate with stakeholders about environmental concerns, and address the risks associated with environmental degradation. This occupation is ideal for mid-career professionals who have significant experience in their employer’s operations since sustainability specialists often need a comprehensive understanding of all facets of their company along with a strong knowledge of sustainability principles and practices.

At a Glance

Imagine yourself standing in the middle of a 5,000 square metre manufacturing facility where office furniture, desks and other supplies are created from raw materials and sold to customers throughout the world. As a sustainability specialist, you apply your extensive knowledge of the factory’s production processes to verify that they are safe for workers in the facility, comply with multiple levels of environmental regulation, and allow your company to create high-quality products.

In your role, you need to know how different environmental regulations impact your employer’s operations, so you often research the latest regulatory requirements and meet with government and legal representatives to ensure that your company correctly interprets and complies with these regulations. You also meet with different industry stakeholders, such as suppliers and delivery companies, to verify that the least amount of energy is used to transport your company’s products. To demonstrate your employer’s compliance with environmental regulations, you often prepare and present environmental impact reports.

Your work is critical to providing a healthy and safe working environment for your colleagues, supporting the long-term financial success of your company, and protecting the environment.

Job Duties

In general, sustainability specialists perform the following job duties:

  • Research various regulatory compliance requirements that affect your employer’s operations.
  • Understand the environmental and regulatory compliance issues facing your employer and implement effective strategies.
  • Liaise with government officials, legal advisors, and internal and external legal auditors.
  • Contribute to the economic sustainability of the organization by discovering and implementing measures to reduce energy and resource use.
  • Write reports and other public communications to promote your company’s sustainability initiatives.
  • Oversee and implement corporate social responsibility initiatives.
  • Implement, monitor and report on your company’s pollution prevention, abatement and control methods, and the total energy use and efficiency involved in producing your company’s products and services.
  • Work with senior leadership to develop a year-long program plan to create actionable items and track deliverables.
  • Collaborate with co-workers to draft requests for proposals/submissions to support the bid for specific projects relating to organizations’ sustainability targets.
  • Participates in project strategy sessions to develop and implement initiatives on sustainability practices.
  • Employ a variety of approaches, learning styles, and mediums to instruct and inform participants on sustainability initiatives.
  • Collect baseline and trend data on operational metrics to develop insights and report on key sustainability performance indicators.

Work Environment

Sustainability specialists work in a variety of locations, including:

The office:

  • Conduct online research on environmental regulatory updates.
  • Prepare environmental compliance reports for senior managers or regulatory agencies.
  • Contact regulatory officials, internal or external auditors or corporate stakeholders.
  • Develop new environmental health & safety (EHS) or corporate sustainability policies and procedures.
  • Calculate the energy consumption required to manufacture a product.

The field:

  • Evaluate manufacturing facilities to understand how new safety procedures should be implemented into the flow of work.
  • Conduct waste stream inventories to monitor waste content and recyclable materials.
  • Present audit and environmental compliance report findings to customers, managers and regulatory officials.
  • Conduct EHS or sustainability training for employees, managers or other stakeholders
  • Measure air, water and noise emissions to ensure compliance with environmental standards.
  • Evaluate energy use to discover new ways to save energy and money.

Where to Work

A wide variety of organizations employ sustainability specialists, including:

  • Industrial manufacturing or production facilities
  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
  • Retail, finance and insurance corporations
  • Universities, colleges and research institutions
  • Laboratories involved in energy conservation or sustainability activities
  • Utility companies

Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.

Education and Skills


If you are a high school student considering a career as a sustainability specialist, you should have a strong interest in:

  • Mathematics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • English

In most cases, sustainability specialists must have at least a university undergraduate degree to find employment.

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

  • Environmental Studies
  • Environmental Science
  • Engineering
  • Accounting
  • Business Administration
  • Biology
  • Social Development
  • Sustainability Policy
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Political Science
  • Economics

If you are a mid-career professional who has comprehensive knowledge of your employer’s operating environment, you may already have the foundation to transition into a career as a sustainability specialist.

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)
  • Sustainability Excellence Associate (SEA) or Sustainability Excellence Professional (SEP)


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


Technical Skills

  • Program development
  • Research
  • Program delivery
  • Data analysis
  • Stakeholder relationship management
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Environmental policy evaluation
  • Sustainability reporting
  • Environmental social governance

Personal and Professional Skills

  • Verbal and written communication
  • Collaboration
  • Professional ethics
  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Apply theoretical concepts to complex, real-world problems
  • Organizational skills

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

Sustainability specialists promote eco-friendly practices to ensure that a project meets or exceeds environmental goals. They deal with concerns like managing waste, reducing carbon emissions and other environmental impacts, implementing green procurement practices, and achieving energy efficiency. This profession is relatively new and growing due to technological advancements or consumer demand.

Sustainability specialists research external sustainability frameworks, industry trends, and environmental sentiment to develop performance metrics to improve internal commitments to sustainability. They also lead the reporting of research findings and key performance indicators on environmental social governance to improve sustainability efforts and inform senior management for decision-making. Sustainability specialists also play a critical role in monitoring and evaluating a company’s commitment to environmental and social goals to promote, develop and improve internal governance consistent with diversity, equity and inclusion.

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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