Sustainability Consultant


Sustainability consultants help business clients improve their organization’s environmental performance. 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. 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. Sustainability consultants play a central role in helping their clients meet their business objectives using an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable approach.

At a glance

Imagine you are standing among the gently rolling hills of Ontario’s wine country, surrounded by the immaculate 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 this visit to the winery, you will measure your client’s resource consumption and analyze these results 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, providing recommendations on energy auditing, using bio-diesel in winery transport vehicles, and upgrading to energy efficient equipment.As a sustainability consultant, you make a positive difference by helping your clients implement socially responsible and cost-effective changes that lower the environmental impact of their operations.

Job duties

Job duties vary significantly from one position to the next, but in general, sustainability consultants are involved in the following job duties:
  • Analyze the operations of new clients in various industries to develop sustainable business solutions.
  • Design programs and processes to help your client mitigate environmental risks.
  • Interact with other sustainability professionals employed by your clients to understand their reporting requirements.
  • Research best practices and new technologies related to sustainability, corporate social responsibility and environmental monitoring.
  • Recommend effective corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives for clients and your employer.
  • Conduct online research to review large governmental reports and retrieve updated Greenhouse Gas (GHG) unit conversion factors.
  • Advise clients on the best ways to measure their energy consumption metrics to effectively calculate their CO2 and other GHG emissions.
  • Actively network with potential clients and other professionals in the environmental sector.

Work environment

Sustainability consultants work in a variety of locations, including:In the office:
  • Conducting online research activities to learn about issues facing clients and actively engage in problem solving exercises in order 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.
In 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.
  • 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
  • Property management companies
  • Engineering services
  • Green (LEED) building design and construction companies
  • Agricultural consulting firms
  • Renewable and fossil fuel consulting firms
  • Utility companies

Education & requirements

If you are a high school student considering a career as a sustainability consultant, you should have a strong interest in:
  • Mathematics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a sustainability specialist is a university undergraduate degree.  Sustainability consultants are often hired by consulting firms upon graduation, so this is an especially ideal occupation for early career professionals.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 (EP) designation.If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a sustainability consultant, the following programs are most applicable:
  • Mathematics
  • Environmental studies
  • Environmental science
  • Engineering
  • Accounting
  • Biology

Salary

On average, entry-level sustainability consultants receive annual starting salaries of approximately $56,000 per year in Canada.