Why does your company need a sustainability manager?

sustainability manager

As climate change continues to accelerate, businesses of all sizes are focusing on sustainability strategies. To do this, they are looking for and hiring sustainability managers. LinkedIn reports the number of green jobs, including sustainability managers and officers, has grown worldwide at a rate of 8 percent annually over the last five years. 

A sustainability manager is a member of a team that focuses solely on sustainability. They are tasked with implementing eco-friendly initiatives and ensuring the organisation is on track to achieve its environmental objectives. Keep reading to learn whether your company needs a sustainability manager and the benefits of working with a sustainability specialist. 

What does a sustainability manager do? 

A sustainability manager, sustainability director, or sustainability officer is an individual whose main responsibility is to create and implement sustainability practices within the organisation. 

Rather than placing the responsibility for sustainability on busy team members who may not have the necessary green skills or knowledge, a sustainability manager takes control of driving sustainability-focused changes. 

They have the knowledge of the organisation they work for added to sustainability and compliance education. Their responsibilities consist of collaboration, implementation, research, and planning. Sustainability managers may also be needed to lead a team in a means to achieve the organisation’s sustainability objectives. 

Research and planning responsibilities usually surround coming up with ideas for new solutions and initiatives to make the business more responsible whilst initiating more profit, cost savings, and new opportunities for brand growth. 

They also have to comprehend relevant policies and stay compliant when considering new sustainability practices. Their role requires them to collaborate with the leadership team and other teams throughout the company to ensure successful implementation. 

What are green skills and the green skills gap? 

Green skills refer to the abilities, values, and knowledge required to create, live in, and support a resource-efficient and environmentally friendly society. They are skills that enable the environmental sustainability of economic activities. Green skills contribute to reducing pollution and conserving natural resources.

We currently have a green skills gap, which makes it difficult for us to make the transition to a greener world. Therefore, the adoption of these skills is absolutely crucial in the face of the climate crisis. Not all jobs of the future need to be 100 percent green, but they should go in that direction as much as possible. 

Green skills can be adopted by leaders and team members to make an existing job more sustainable. For instance, a fashion manager sourcing more eco-friendly materials or smaller changes like a sales representative leveraging remote selling. Green skills can also be taught to help workers pursue new positions in emerging sectors. 

Some of these industries could include renewable energy or environmental remediation. These could include offline or online learning to upskill or include specialist training or qualifications. Green skills are particularly needed for greening jobs which are those that focus on restoring the natural environment. 

The fastest growing green skills are coming up in sectors that are traditionally green but also ones we have not historically deemed green, like fashion or finance. Some green skills include risk management, impact assessment, impact and use minimisation, material use and impact quantification, management systems, and much more. 

What are the advantages of hiring a sustainability manager? 

As the individual tasked with driving sustainability progress in your company, there are many advantages of hiring a sustainability manager. Ultimately, they help to make sure your company is on track to achieving its environmental objectives. They ensure your planetary goals are prioritised and not pushed aside in the race for profits and business growth.

Having one person dedicated to those goals automatically helps a business better prioritise sustainability practices. A sustainability manager also offers accountability and structure, which also helps drive your environmental efforts. One other significant benefit of hiring a sustainability manager is specialisation. In other words, they are specialised in sustainability. 

This generally means they are passionate about it and comprehend the challenges facing organisations and the opportunities awaiting them. This will help to make sure the changes your business makes are genuine and meaningful. They also know exactly what they are talking about thanks to their knowledge and expertise. Having a sustainability manager can also positively affect your brand’s image. 

It sends a signal to customers and investors that you are taking environmental action very seriously and that sustainability matters to you. A sustainability manager is also about the people. In other words, they will help to make sure a safe work environment is being provided. This is because sustainability overlaps with health and safety. Therefore, they safeguard your employees to ensure they are working in safe conditions. 

How to become a sustainability manager? 

There are many different routes to becoming a sustainability manager for a company. A university degree is usually required for sustainability manager jobs, but sometimes, an apprenticeship or having relevant experience and knowledge is enough. 

A lot of the time, employers looking for sustainability managers will want to know that the individual cares about sustainability, is enthusiastic, can follow instructions, and is willing to learn, along with having the necessary skills.

If you are keen on sustainability courses online, the Diploma in Business Sustainability course offered by the Institute of Sustainability Studies will provide you with key sustainability insights and help you gain essential sustainability skills to confidently lead sustainability initiatives at your organisation or advance your career in sustainability.

When should you think about hiring a sustainability manager? 

A sustainability manager is not a requirement for every business. Some smaller organisations simply cannot afford to take on another member of staff and have their role solely based on the company achieving environmental objectives. If you are in a position to hire a sustainability manager, you may not know when the right time to do that is. 

If you operate a small to medium enterprise, it may be wise to wait to hire a sustainability manager and instead, incorporate this role into an existing job. Once your company has grown, it may be more sensible to consider hiring a dedicated member of staff. Smaller businesses may find it more worthwhile to hire a sustainability consultant on an as-needed basis to help them stay on track with their sustainability progress and goals. 

How do you know if a candidate is qualified to be your sustainability manager? 

Sustainability managers are relatively new positions and are often considered to be new career paths. Therefore, many hiring managers and employers may not know what to look for when hiring a sustainability manager. This is where an internal hire could assist the process because the candidate would already possess the knowledge about your business and where it wants to go in terms of sustainability.

Plus, you would already know their skill set and that they are passionate about the environment. However, if no one on your team is right for the role, you should look for a candidate with several certain requirements. The first thing you should look for in a candidate is a bachelor’s or master’s degree qualification. Another thing you should include as a requirement is having 3-5 years of experience in hands-on and corporate settings. 

Even better if they have experience working with start-ups and small businesses, taking them to great places. The ideal candidate should also have in-depth knowledge of sustainability regulations and practices to help you progress on your goals and also ensure you remain compliant. In terms of other skills, having good leadership and communication skills is important. 

Also, they should be able to perform research effectively, plan and implement, and solve problems. For this kind of position, some creativity will also likely be required as they will be the ones coming up with and developing innovative solutions to address the company’s sustainability shortcomings. Ideally, they should also have good presentation skills and be able to manage a budget effectively. 

One thing to be conscious of when hiring a sustainability manager is greenwashing. Whilst taking someone on to prioritise sustainability looks good for investors and customers, you must still follow this up with action. If you don’t, you run the risk of the company becoming guilty of misleading practices like greenwashing. Greenwashing is something no ethical business should engage in. It refers to a business appearing to be eco-friendly when they aren’t. 

Summary

According to research by MIT, while 90 percent of executives consider sustainability to be important, just 60 percent have a sustainability strategy in place. The purpose of sustainability managers is to provide structure and direction, helping businesses achieve those important environmental objectives and get a sustainability strategy in place. 

They are tasked with focusing solely on sustainability and making sure the company is on track to achieving its goals. Sustainability managers can offer a lot of value to businesses, helping them take meaningful climate action, but also enhancing brand image, experience cost savings, and more. It is not necessary for every business to hire a sustainability manager, especially for those small businesses. 

However, it is important to start embedding sustainability into your business and find ways you can reduce your impact. If you are ready to start your business sustainability journey today and operate more responsibly, our sustainability courses online can help you become a business environmental champion. 

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