Sustainability Officer

What is a sustainability officer? Sustainability officers oversee a comprehensive suite of activities related to reducing environmental impacts and applying sustainability principles. They develop, implement, and evaluate programs for their employers that support social, environmental, and economic sustainability objectives.

At a Glance

Imagine you’re standing in the main quad of a bustling university campus. As the new sustainability officer here, you’ll be developing a campus-wide program to encourage environmental stewardship and energy conservation.

This initiative includes the expansion of the university’s existing research on applied environmental science and policy, as well as an ongoing community outreach program to raise awareness about sustainability issues.

Since your role is central to public perceptions about the university, you will be reporting directly to the university’s President.

Even though this is still your first week on the job, you have a full, fast-paced day ahead of you.

You’ll be leading a number of meetings with different stakeholder groups 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 that enough funding is available to support upcoming program additions.

You know you’re up to the challenge of this new role as a sustainability officer. Throughout your past work experience, you’ve 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 for sustainability officers vary but the following list includes typical job duties that they may encounter:

  • Create an overarching 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
  • Conduct an analysis of 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 the efficiency and effectives of sustainability programs

Work Environment

Sustainability officers typically work in the following settings:


In the office:

  • Performing administrative activities to manage staff and budgets
  • Developing, implementing, and evaluating an organization’s sustainability programs
  • Writing reports for upper management about the progress of sustainability projects
  • Conducting research to identify new sources of funding and writing grant proposals to request additional funding sources
  • Analyzing large datasets to determine where clients may be using inefficient methods or processes
  • Communicating with clients on their specific needs
  • Recommending new social, economic, or environmental sustainability policies and procedures to clients
  • Monitoring changes to environmental legislation and regulations

In the field:

  • Attending training seminars to stay up-to-date with new developments in sustainability policy, practices and technology
  • Participating in stakeholder engagement meetings to assess the needs and interests of clients
  • Promoting sustainable practices in various workplaces
  • Supervising researchers and technicians performing on-site assessments
  • Monitoring the energy consumption and emission levels of various aspects of client’s operations
  • Providing 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 job with professional development courses in:

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

You may also find our Environmental Professional (EP) designation useful.


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

  • Project design
  • Knowledge of environmental health and safety standards
  • Resource management
  • Knowledge of environmental legislation and regulations
  • Customer relationship management
  • Knowledge of types of sustainability certifications

Soft Skills (personal attributes and characteristics)

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


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

Education and Skills

Your Impact

Sustainability officers typically come from diverse professional backgrounds and enter this position with past experience of leading junior staff and managers. They address inefficiencies in the workplace that impact the environment such as energy use, resource conservation, recycling, transportation, and building design.

Sustainability officers are often key organizational leaders who must have outstanding skills in strategic planning, human resources management, and relationship-building.

They set out goals and objectives, organize timelines to motivate clients to improve their productivity and profitability, whilst acting in accordance with environmental policies and legislation and not jeopardize surrounding ecosystems.

Many people consciously try to create a more sustainable environment. Whether through using reusable bottles and containers, taking public transport or walking to reduce emissions, we actively try to reduce our impact. But how can organizations make changes? How can they ensure a sustainable workplace?

This is the role of a sustainability officer. Not only do they help in the implementation process but also with what comes after it to ensure that sustainable practices continue in the long term.

Here are just a few ways a sustainability officer can help firms make their workspaces more sustainable:

  • Compliance: sustainability officers ensure that any programs initiated to improve sustainability are organized in such a way that complies with regulations.
  • Efficiency: sustainability officers help improve efficiencies in buildings through energy savings, waste reduction, and recycling
  • Innovation: sustainability officers use creativity to transform spaces into innovative and sustainable environments that not only improve the productivity of employees and maximize long-term productivity but facilitate discussions on simple ways to combat climate change and water management

Occupational Classification

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

NOC Code: 1122- Professional Occupations in Business Management Consulting

NOC Code: 0124- Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations Manager

NOC Code: 2262- Inspectors in Public and Environmental Health and Occupational Health and Safety

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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