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.

Coworkers sitting beside each other and smilingwhile looking at a computer screen

At a glance

Imagine yourself standing in the middle of a 5,000 sq. 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 minimum amount of energy is used to transport your company’s products. To demonstrate your employer’s compliance with environmental regulations, you 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 the different 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 both 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, as well as the total energy use and efficiency involved in producing your company’s products and services.

Work environment

Sustainability Specialists work in a variety of locations, including:

In the office:

  • Conducting online research of environmental regulatory updates
  • Preparing environmental compliance reports for senior managers or regulatory agencies
  • Contacting regulatory officials, internal or external auditors or corporate stakeholders
  • Developing new environmental health & safety (EHS) or corporate sustainability policies and procedures
  • Calculating the energy consumption required to manufacture a product

In the field:

  • Evaluating manufacturing facilities to understand how new safety procedures should be implemented into the flow of work
  • Conducting waste stream inventories to monitor waste content and recyclable materials
  • Presenting audit and environmental compliance report findings to customers, managers and regulatory officials
  • Conducting EHS or sustainability training for employees, managers or other stakeholders
  • Measuring air, water and noise emissions to ensure compliance with environmental standards
  • Evaluating 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

Education & requirements

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.

Salary

Entry-level sustainability specialists typically receive starting annual salaries between $38,000 and $75,000 in Canada. The average starting annual salary is approximately $41,000.