What Does a Sustainability Manager Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Gain insights into the career path, work duties, and job outlook of a sustainability manager.

[Featured Image] A sustainability manager sits at her desk and conducts research on her company's environmental goals.

Sustainable development, as defined by the United Nations, entails addressing current needs “without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” [1]. In the business sphere, sustainability denotes the commitment to conducting operations in a manner that avoids detrimental impacts on the environment, local communities, and society at large.

To reach these goals, numerous large corporations, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies turn to experts in sustainability. This article focuses on the expertise and job prospects of a sustainability manager.

What is a sustainability manager? 

A sustainability manager guides businesses in creating and enacting eco-friendly strategies. 

Besides overseeing the ethical sourcing of raw materials, sustainability managers constantly oversee an organization’s environmental impact. Above all, sustainability managers support firms conforming to federal, state, and local environmental regulations.

What does a sustainability manager do?

Essentially, a sustainability manager aids organizations in elevating their environmental awareness and efforts rankings while also ensuring continued profitability and a competitive edge.

Did you know? In 2022, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) achieved a pioneering feat by becoming the first federal agency to revamp a battery electric vehicle (EV), the Ford Mustang Mach-E, for law enforcement use [2]. 


Tasks and responsibilities

Should you wish to become a sustainability manager, here are some of the tasks you will be responsible for: 

  • Raising awareness of sustainable management practices among stakeholders

  • Generating annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reports

  • Formulating sustainability policies and procedures 

  • Investigating critical incidents that negatively impact sustainability 

Essential skills of a sustainability manager

A career in sustainability management requires both technical and workplace skills. Below is an overview of both.

Technical skills

Among the essential technical skills for sustainability management are: 

Adeptness in supply chain management and logistics

As a sustainability manager, you will need logistics skills to help minimize your firm’s environmental footprint; for instance, optimizing transportation routes to lower carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) emissions. By utilizing your expertise in supply chain management, you may also find yourself responsible for developing recycling strategies to reduce waste, integrating renewable energy sources like solar power, and more.

Understanding of data visualization tools 

A vital skill in sustainability management is proficiency in data collection, analysis, and reporting. This empowers you to track and assess the long-term impact of sustainability initiatives across your organization while effectively conveying this data through visualization. 

Workplace skills

Among the essential workplace skills for sustainability management are: 


Your leadership skills play a pivotal role in cultivating an environment where your team members embrace sustainability as a core value and proactively contribute new, innovative ideas for environmentally friendly business operations. Essentially, you must build a culture of open communication and idea sharing where everyone feels encouraged to participate in the company’s sustainability journey. 

Effective communication 

Audience-centered communication is key to reinforcing employees’ commitment to sustainability. What particular data, stories, or real-life instances will help them establish a connection with the concept of sustainability? Your ability to communicate the “why” can motivate team members and stakeholders alike.

Sustainability manager salary and job outlook

According to several job listing sites, the average annual pay for a sustainability manager ranges from $67,890 to $104,218. The following table lists the salary ranges provided by Zippia [3], Glassdoor [4], and Payscale [5]. 


According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), between 2022 and 2032, employment in management roles will generally expand at a rate exceeding the average for all professions. The projected growth is estimated to result in an annual average of approximately 1.1 million job openings [6]. 

Sustainability manager career path

On average, the process of preparing for a career as a sustainability manager takes around eight years after graduating from high school. This duration includes four years of undergraduate education and an additional two to six years for graduate studies, with master’s programs typically spanning two years and doctoral programs extending up to six years. While a bachelor’s or master’s degree in sustainability management isn’t mandatory, it can be beneficial to complement your education with courses in sustainable energy management.

Let’s go over the career route in depth below. 

Education and training 

A bachelor’s degree is a good starting point if you're a beginner. It is the most popular educational qualification among sustainability managers, with 67 percent holding this degree [7]. You can also choose to obtain a master’s degree or an associate degree. Business is the most common major among sustainability managers, while other prevalent majors for sustainability managers include environmental science and biology.

However, if you’re an employee seeking to switch careers, embracing reskilling and upskilling opportunities is the way to go. By actively engaging with sustainability efforts at your workplace, you can build the experience and skills needed to transition into a career focused on sustainability while simultaneously contributing to a more sustainable and eco-conscious work environment.

Common sustainability certifications

Here’s a list of certifications offered by recognized organizations that can enhance your knowledge of sustainability practices and help you qualify for or advance within a sustainability manager role:

Association of Energy Engineers (AEE)

The AEE certifications will provide you with opportunities to learn how to make businesses more energy efficient as an experienced professional:

  • Certified Energy Manager® (CEM®)

  • Certified Renewable Energy Professional™ (REP™)

National Registry of Environmental Professionals (NREP)

If you are considering a career in environmental management and are beginning your professional journey, the NREP certification is a fitting choice. You can attain this certification even without a college degree. 

  • Certified Environmental and Safety Compliance Officer® (CESCO)

Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO)

The ACCO certification is designed to help you drive climate change initiatives at your firm as a senior and mid-level professional. 

  • Certified Climate Change Professional® (CC-P®)

Get started with Coursera.

Strengthen your foundational sustainability knowledge with the University of Illinois’ Introduction to Sustainability course on Coursera. From environmental economics to agriculture, this course will help you comprehend key sustainability concepts. You’ll need approximately 25 hours to complete the course, after which you will earn a shareable certificate. To help you prepare further for a management role in sustainability, consider more advanced courses, such as Driving Business Towards the Sustainable Development Goals and Corporate Sustainability. Understanding and Seizing the Strategic Opportunity.

Article sources


United Nations. “Our Common Future, Chapter 2: Towards Sustainable Development, http://www.un-documents.net/ocf-02.htm#I.” Accessed March 18, 2024.

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