What Is a Sustainable Consultant (With Duties and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 September 2022 | Published 4 October 2021

Updated 22 September 2022

Published 4 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're passionate about helping the planet, discovering the answer to 'what is a sustainable consultant?' could lead you to a good career. Organisations in many industries may employ sustainable consultants to improve their practices. Sustainable consultants may be in demand as the world becomes more eco-conscious. In this article, we define what a sustainable consultant is, what they do, the skills they use and how they secure their careers.

What is a sustainable consultant?

A sustainable consultant is a professional who advises clients on sustainable strategies. Sustainable consultants may have government or commercial business clients. These organisations contract sustainable consultants to become more eco-friendly and efficient. Satisfied clients may build long-term relationships with sustainable consultants and use them regularly to become greener over time. Sustainable consultants are sometimes called sustainability consultants and environmental consultants.

What do sustainable consultants do?

Sustainable consultants assess their clients' practices and suggest ways they can reduce their impact on the planet. They give informed, customised advice which balances their client's responsibilities to the environment and stakeholders. They work closely with management teams to develop and implement sustainable plans. Their duties may vary depending on the scope of the services they offer and the needs of their clients. Common duties for sustainable consultants include:

  • assessing clients' current practices, goals and limitations

  • evaluating clients' environmental impact, including energy and water use, waste production and disposal and carbon footprint

  • collecting and analysing data related to client sustainability and reporting findings to stakeholders

  • proposing achievable sustainability strategies that fit within teach client's budget and official requirements

  • developing sustainability plans in consultation with clients

  • helping client's put sustainable strategies, such as recycling programs or adoption of solar power, in place

  • teaching stakeholders and client employees about sustainability and the environment

  • providing ongoing support to clients

  • researching new sustainability solutions and relevant legislation changes

What are important skills for sustainable consultants?

Sustainability consultants use technical skills to get the best results for their clients. Their strong soft skills help them form positive relationships with clients. Developing the following skills can help you succeed as a sustainable consultant:

Environmental and business sector knowledge

Sustainable consultants understand the procedures and legislation that impacts their clients. Their understanding of building codes and environmental standards helps them provide accurate advice to their clients. It also ensures that any changes their clients make meet local laws and standards.

Environmental testing

Sustainable consultants feel comfortable testing environmental factors, such as soil, water and air quality. Their technical proficiency in environmental testing makes sure their results are accurate. They also understand what their tests reveal about the business environment.

Interpersonal skills

Sustainable consultants use their strong interpersonal skills to attract and connect with clients. They are friendly people who know how to establish common ground with the stakeholders they meet. The bonds they form help clients trust sustainable consultants and their advice. Sustainable consultants with good interpersonal skills may also get repeat business and recommendations that can expand their client base.

Customer service

Successful sustainable consultants put their clients first. They focus on getting the best results for their clients and helping them meet or exceed their sustainability targets. Many sustainable consultants offer support after sustainability projects end. Their focus on customer service can also encourage client loyalty and positive referrals.

Related: 17 Customer Service Skills: Definitions and Examples

Written and verbal communication skills

Sustainable consultants usually know more about sustainability markers and environmental impact than their clients. They use their communication skills to simplify complex concepts for their clients. The most successful sustainable consultants communicate clearly when they speak to stakeholders and write reports. They are also engaging speakers and writers who inspire others to share their vision and passion for sustainability. Their listening skills help them understand their clients' goals and limitations.

Teamwork

Sustainable consultants become part of their clients' teams during their contracts. Strong teamwork skills help them quickly form connections with other team members. They work cohesively with the teams to achieve sustainability goals.

Self-management

While sustainable consultants spend time working in teams, they also often work alone. Sustainable consultants with strong self-management skills can stay motivated with periodic management and team interaction. They set personal goals and feel driven to complete them. Self-employed sustainable consultants rely on their self-management skills to secure new clients and minimise downtime between projects.

Project management

Clients employ sustainable consultants because they are experts in sustainability, an area where they have little experience. While developing sustainability projects is often a collaborative process, sustainability consultants take the lead role. Their project management skills help them set targets, delegate tasks, supervise team members and deliver projects on time and on budget.

Time management

Clients contract sustainable consultants for a set period. Sustainable consultants rely on their time management skills to achieve their clients' sustainability goals by the end of their contracts. Good time management ensures they can focus adequately on each task and work at a steady pace to meet their deadlines.

Related: Using the Pomodoro Technique to Master Time Management

Problem-solving

Helping a business become more sustainable while still achieving its financial targets requires keen problem-solving skills. Sustainability consultants use their problem-solving skills to devise the right sustainable strategies for each client. They gather and analyse information about their clients. Their research informs the solutions they develop.

What is the average salary for sustainability consultants?

The average salary for a sustainability consultant is $92,440 per year. If they are self-employed, their yearly earnings may vary depending on the number of clients they have each year. A sustainable consultant's experience, location and employer may also impact their salary.

Related: 6 Tips for Your Next Salary Negotiation

How to become a sustainable consultant

Sustainable consultants are usually university-educated professionals with knowledge and experience in environmental science. Here are the steps most people take to become sustainable consultants:

1. Complete year 12 with prerequisite subjects, or the equivalent

Graduating high school at the end of year 12 is the easiest way to qualify for university. Many relevant degrees have prerequisite subjects, including English, maths, physics and chemistry. Studying these subjects in years 11 and 12 gives you the basic knowledge to help you transition to university. Different courses have different prerequisites, so it's a good idea to contact your preferred university and check the requirements before choosing your senior subjects. Ensure your senior study program has enough units to give you an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) with your secondary school certificate.

If you leave school before completing year 12 or your ATAR is lower than expected, additional study at TAFE can help you enter university. The Certificate IV in Tertiary Preparation can help you qualify for a bachelor's degree.

2. Get a bachelor's degree in environmental science

A bachelor's degree in environmental science is the most common qualification for sustainability consultants. Common degree programs include a Bachelor of Environmental Science, Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management and Bachelor of Environmental Science (Environmental Management and Sustainability). An environmental science degree teaches you about environmental processes, how societies interact with their environments and how society can minimise its impact on the planet.

Bachelor's degree programs typically involve three years of full-time study or the equivalent part-time hours. Fieldwork and professional work experience placements complement classroom instructions. Some universities offer online study options.

3. Volunteer in the environmental sector

Many sustainability projects and environmental charities accept volunteers. Spending time with these organisations is a great way to gain more experience while you're studying. Focus on learning as many new skills and networking with sustainability experts during your time volunteering.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Volunteer Experience

4. Get paid experience in the environmental industry

Apply for entry-level roles with businesses focused on the environment, ecology and sustainability. Becoming a graduate or junior sustainability consultant is the ideal way to start your paid career. Any role in this sector can teach you transferrable skills. Volunteer for new opportunities and take part in developmental programs to advance in your career.

5. Get accreditation from leading environmental organisation

Getting accreditation from leading environmental groups can set you apart from other sustainable consultants. Accreditation also confirms your knowledge of well-regarded organisations in the environmental sector. Greenstar, National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) and WELL accreditation are valuable for sustainable consultants in Australia.

6. Apply for sustainable consultant roles

After five or more years in the environmental industry, you may feel confident applying for sustainability consulting roles. You may apply for roles with a business or sustainable consulting firm or decide to freelance and find your own clients. Highlight your notable achievements to separate your job application from other candidates.

Related: 11 Jobs to Pursue for a Career in Sustainability

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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