What Does a Sustainability Analyst Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

If you’re passionate about saving the environment, a career as a sustainability analyst may be right for you. Learn more about a sustainability analyst career, how to become one, and the salary potential.

[Featured image] A sustainability analyst sits at a laptop and wears a headset while consulting with a business owner about how to improve the company's environmental impact.

If you’re passionate about saving the environment and helping businesses make sustainable, eco-friendly decisions, a career as a sustainability specialist might be an excellent fit. Demand for workers in this role may continue to grow as businesses look for new ways to incorporate sustainable practices into future projects. Read on to learn more about a sustainability analyst career, how to become one, and typical responsibilities.

Read more: What Is Sustainability? (And Why Is It Important)

What is a sustainability analyst?

A sustainability analyst, also known as a sustainability specialist, is a professional whose main responsibility is to help businesses or organizations address any environmental issues resulting from doing business. They design and implement strategies to help make their employer more eco-friendly and make recommendations based on longevity and quality of life for future generations.

Sustainability analysts work across a wide range of industries. They might help a global company reduce its carbon footprint or work with a local organization to stop pollutants from entering rivers. They use data to analyze the environmental risks of new construction or projects.

Read more: What Does a Sustainability Specialist Do?

What is the difference between sustainability and ESG?

Sustainability and ESG, which stand for environmental, social, and governance, differ due to their specific scale. ESG refers to the set of standards used by businesses to measure their impact. ESG focuses on creating metrics that have a positive impact environmentally. These metrics are designed to reduce risk and entice stakeholders and investors because they demonstrate a business’s commitment to specific ethical standards.

ESG fits under the overarching umbrella of sustainability. It’s about the specific practices and strategies a business uses to positively impact the planet and reduce any environmentally harmful effects of projects or processes. ESG is the way a company displays its commitment to sustainable practices.

What does a sustainability analyst do?

Sustainability analysts use data to analyze the environmental impact of a business or organization’s projects and processes. They use this information to make recommendations and design policies that help their employer be more eco-friendly. They create strategic plans and reports that business leadership uses to implement environmentally conscious practices.

Tasks and responsibilities

The specific tasks and responsibilities you might encounter in a sustainability analyst role vary depending on the industry you work in, but some typical expectations of the job might include:

  • Writing reports about the findings and results from data gathering and analysis

  • Designing data collection processes that fit your company’s specific goals

  • Proposing new strategies and recommendations to increase eco-friendliness

  • Speaking to your company and the public about any potential environmental risks

  • Managing teams implementing your recommendations

  • Developing new environmentally friendly initiatives

Sustainability analyst skills

Because sustainability analysts function as leaders within their departments and often interact with the public, the skills required to succeed in this role revolve around your ability to work and communicate with others effectively. A strong science and data background is also helpful for developing the skills necessary for this role. Some examples of these skills include:

Technical skills

  • Experience with sustainability concepts

  • Data gathering and analysis

  • Statistical analysis

  • Protocol writing

  • Sustainability software skills

Workplace skills

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Communication skills

  • Problem-solving skills

Sustainability analysts need to feel comfortable speaking publicly and working with a wide range of professionals and decision-makers. 

Salary and job outlook

Sustainability analysts are part of a growing, in-demand field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these and other environmental specialist roles are expected to grow 6 percent through 2032, which is much faster than average [1]. The average annual base salary for a sustainability analyst in the US is $$72,117 [2].

Sustainability analyst career path

The sustainability analyst career path starts with you gaining the skills and experience needed to successfully meet the role's expectations. This might be through formal education or becoming involved in sustainability measures within your current job. Seek organizations doing sustainability events and get some firsthand experience to start learning. You can also start developing your sustainability skills through volunteering with environmentally conscious organizations.

Sustainability analysts typically need a combined background of science and business experience. Again, formal education is a great way to gain these skills, while internships, volunteering, or current job opportunities also provide ways to build this knowledge.

Once you grasp the knowledge and experience needed, start applying for entry-level jobs, which might include roles as a lab technician or research assistant. Obtaining an introductory role in the field is the first step toward advancing your analyst career. Once you’ve spent time in an entry-level role, pursue promotions or advancements as they occur and spark your interest.

Know that a career as a sustainability specialist is one in which staying positive and feeling passionate about your job are key to finding fulfillment in the role. You might encounter obstacles and challenges to meeting your goals, so staying optimistic is important to help you stay happy.

Do I need a degree?

Typically, you will need a four-year degree to gain employment as a sustainability analyst. Degrees in sustainability, engineering, or environmental science are all relevant options. Some sustainability analysts choose to pursue advanced degrees as well. A master’s or PhD offers opportunities to hone your skills further or choose a specialization that interests you.

Some universities offer a sustainability degree, which combines the business and science aspects of the job into one course. Many of these degrees include internships, which can be useful for developing your skills and gaining experience.


Learn more with Coursera.

Sharpen your analysis skills and learn more about starting a career as a sustainability analyst with courses and Professional Certificates offered on Coursera. With course options such as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Introduction to Sustainability or the IESE Business School’s Strategy and Sustainability, you can learn fundamental knowledge and gain insight into the sustainability analyst career path.

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Environmental Scientists and Specialists: Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-scientists-and-specialists.htm#tab-6.” Accessed April 14, 2024.

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