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WHAT DOES A SUSTAINABILITY MANAGER DO

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about 2 years ago by Simon Bliss

The Sustainability Manager

A Sustainability Manager plays a crucial role within any modern organisation, helping to ensure that an enterprise commits to an agenda that will lead to a secure future. Avoiding the depletion of resources, looking after the needs of future generations and planning economic viability are all important features of sustainability within a business, and a Sustainability Manager can help to achieve them.

What does a Sustainability Manager do?

The role of a Sustainability Manager is an unusual and varied one. It is multifaceted, helping to guarantee that a company upholds environmental standards and takes steps towards a greener future. It is a role that enables somebody to make a real difference to the way an organisation affects the environment and implement strategies that reduce ecological damage and promote long-term sustainability.

Sustainability Managers take control of the development, implementation, promotion and monitoring of environmental strategies within an organisation. Each of these four stages of the process hold considerable importance, with the Sustainability Manager leading the way in a vital process that helps to uphold environmental standards and innovate for future benefits.

The Sustainability Manager is frequently also responsible for managing a budget, liaising with marketing departments to promote a sustainability strategy, and communicating plans to directors, colleagues, stakeholders, vendors and customers.

Working within local authorities, national government bodies, corporate offices, consultancies, academic institutions or agencies, a Sustainability Manager holds an important and increasingly visible role in any organisation that is required to manage and reduce waste and promote ecological sustainability.

The skills and qualifications of a Sustainability Manager

Sustainability Managers must be reflective and able to come up with solutions that can solve complex problems.

Waste levels and types and other key environmental points must be carefully analysed and solutions presented and updated as required. The role of Sustainability Manager is one of continual updating and reassessment, if an effective sustainability strategy is to be truly successful.

This means that inefficiencies and problems must be identified at an early stage and solutions found to address them. Creative thinking can be required to come up with the innovations required to truly meet the demands of the role, and a good degree of organisation is required to manage the multiple tasks that must be carried out.

The role of Sustainability Manager can also involve looking back at decisions that have already been made, and policies that are already in place, and reassessing whether they were correct and whether they continue to be relevant as an organisation changes. For this reason, a Sustainability Manager must be a flexible worker and able to honestly look at their previous work and make objective judgements about its success or failure.

While no particular academic qualification is required for this role, many candidates have a degree in environmental science, engineering, sustainability or business. ISO 14001 Environmental Management standards can be incredibly valuable for a Sustainability Manager, and BREEAM certification, an environmental assessment method, can be useful to possess.

The responsibilities of a Sustainability Manager

Some of the responsibilities of the role of Sustainability Manager include:

  • Analysing the current practices of an organisation and identifying points where environmental sustainability could be improved
  • Identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) to establish how the organisation will know whether important sustainability targets have been met
  • Measuring the performance of the organisation’s current sustainability practices to have a benchmark from which to improve
  • Planning and developing a strategy to improve environmental sustainability within an organisation
  • Initiating a course of action so that sustainability metrics are gathered and recorded over time, to measure and chart improvements
  • Communicating this strategy to colleagues, customers, stakeholders and vendors in a way that is easy to understand. This can include hosting training events or producing materials to distribute
  • Working with other departments, such as Human Resources, marketing and PR, to open lines of communication about changes that will be implemented and the impact they will have on the workplace and the environment
  • Analysing results on an ongoing basis to effectively audit an organisation’s progress and identify areas that need continuing improvement
  • Periodically reassessing work that is in progress and that has already been carried out in order to look again at difficult problems and assess the suitability of strategies already in place
  • Liaising with colleagues, directors and experts to gain valuable expertise from third parties
  • Ongoing training and certification, as required.

The business benefits of recruiting a Sustainability Manager

Hiring a Sustainability Manager can benefit a business in a number of ways.

The existence of a Sustainability Manager position, and the changes in organisational practice that result from this, can produce positive improvements in the way a company is perceived by the public. It is a clear demonstration that an organisation or company is taking steps to improve its environmental responsibility and cause less damage. By improving an organisation’s practices, legal action and negative publicity can be avoided.

The public perception of a ‘green’ company is often positive. Whether products are being adapted to be more environmentally friendly, or the reliance on energy supplies of a university or local council is being reduced thanks to the installation of solar panels, positive press releases can be sent out and customer loyalty or stakeholder investment may well improve. Environmental certification and awards can be applied for and, if achieved, promoted throughout the organisation to encourage good practice and reward members of staff for the work they have achieved.

Another significant benefit to any organisation that is considering hiring a Sustainability Manager is the potential difference it could make to the organisation’s bottom line. By reducing waste and encouraging more positive environmental practices, money can be saved, and the improved public image could also lead to more sales, thanks to better PR.

Recruiting a Sustainability Manager is an effective way to improve a company or organisation’s environmental profile and, although it is a relatively new position, it will grow in importance as government legislation and public pressure to improve ecological performance increase. The expertise of somebody in this role cannot be underestimated, and the change they can effect is long-term and impressive. 

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