Experts’ Predictions for the Sustainability Profession in 2012

Want to know what the sustainability profession will face in 2012? I asked a group of experts for their predictions and included a few of my own.

Dr. Mrim Boutla – Co-Founder & Managing Partner, More Than Money Careers; Values-driven Career Coach@mtmcareers
Whereas in impact investing, cleantech or energy efficiency, sustainability career options are growing across sectors.  Students from top universities continue to ask for information and best practices to best compete for these values-driven well-paying careers.  In 2012, universities will need to further build their internal capacity and expand their traditional career development offerings for their students and alumni to turn their education into careers that address the social and environmental challenges we face.

Elaine Cohen – Sustainability Reporter,  Beyond Business Ltd. @elainecohen
2012 will be a year of embedding sustainability in deeper and more meaningful ways. More companies will look at the integration of sustainability into core business decisions, engage employees in more intensive and creative ways, drive monitoring and reporting into their supply chain and engage in sector partnerships to advance systemic change. The new global citizen-consumer awareness will accelerate this process in the Western world while emerging markets will focus on tangible benefits and market development through sustainability.

Rob Kaplan – recently joined Walmart’s sustainability team focusing on supply chain GHG reductions@robbyk
The sustainability profession is facing a turning point. Many companies are attempting to actualize their aspirational goals and they need the right staff in place to deliver on their targets. In 2012, successful sustainability professionals will focus on delivering targeted roadmaps, while also adhering to the spirit of making lasting change.

Kevin Moss – Head of CR,  BT Americas; Chair, Professional Development Committee, CROA @KevinIMoss
In 2012 we will see sustainability practitioners increasingly needing to understand, and positively influence, the impact of the products and services of their company on society and on the environment. Some customers will demand sustainability information and act on it, as will some investors. But not enough of them to be the driving force for change. In 2012 sustainability practitioners must become the internal catalysts for companies themselves to lead the paradigm changes required.

Aman Singh –  Editorial Director, CSRwire; Journalist & Social Media Strategist
Sustainability as a profession will continue to see further integration into traditional job descriptions. As opposed to the slowly growing number of sustainability professionals, I believe we will see a shift toward more job integration. That is, every employee will be responsible for the sustainability of her actions, decisions and innovation processes. More companies will also start tying sustainability performance with compensation/incentives as issues grow larger and individual contributions become acute.

Jessica Thomas- Managing Director, Center for Sustainable Enterprise, Kenan-Flagler Business School, UNC Chapel Hill
I predict that the range of opportunities to apply business strategies to drive the triple bottom line will continue to grow as MBAs recognize there are innovative strategies to effect change across the spectrum of functional areas and industries. More and more MBAs will empower themselves as changemakers within traditional companies and traditional roles and find ways to drive the top and bottom line outside of roles with “CSR” or “Sustainability” in the title.

Arlin Wasserman – fellow, Aspen Institute; former VP Sustainability, Sodexo
The sustainability profession is going to evolve from internal advocate and consultant and marketing supporter to risk management professional, especially at older companies that haven’t fully integrated sustainability practices throughout their operations. A lot of the forecasts for impacts of climate change, water scarcity and resource constraints focus on milestone years like 2020 and 2050. But the impact on business isn’t a “hockey stick” and the early signs are showing up on company P&L statements. Sustainability professionals will need to help translate long term trends in environmental, social and demographic changes into actionable information for colleagues working on shorter time horizons.

Brad Zarnett – Founder and Director, Toronto Sustainability Speaker Series, @bradzarnett
In 2012, sustainability professionals need to move beyond passion and become business experts. They need to understand what drives each department and what issues are important to the decision makers. Then they need to frame their ideas within the context of each department’s goals (e.g. money, health and safety, brand enhancement, recognition). Until new company wide metrics for sustainability emerge, change agents will need to become business experts and make those around them shine. Finding allies and achieving your goals is much easier when everyone around you can easily answer the question, “why is sustainability good for me.”

Ellen Weinreb – Managing Director, Weinreb Group Executive Search @sustainablejobs

  1. Sustainability leaders will get an increase in their 2012 budget to support more headcount.
  2. More companies will offer sustainability internships.
  3. The profession itself will shift away from the “sustainability” title.

What are your predictions and how are you going to act on them?

Original article:  Weinreb Group Insights

Weinreb Group is an executive search firm specializing in Sustainability, Supply Chain and External Relations. Bringing 15 years of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability experience to their offering. Weinreb Group has regularly published reports on CSR jobs. More information available at or follow on twitter at @SustainableJobs