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The Green Life: Green Careers: Sustainability Consulting

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March 22, 2013

Green Careers: Sustainability Consulting

Sustainability consultingDid you take our green career quiz on Monday? If so, did you score mostly d's? You'll probably excel as a sustainable planning consultant. Read below to learn how to launch a career helping companies both succeed and practice environmental responsibility.

Green Careers: Sustainability Consulting

You don’t need to dirty your hands reporting on an oil spill, tilling an urban vegetable garden, or monitoring Sumatran tiger populations to protect the planet. As a sustainable planning consultant, you can minimize harm to the environment from a corporate conference room. 

Sustainable planning consultants research and implement cost-saving strategies to reduce a company’s environmental impact. They help evaluate sustainable development requirements and create and implement strategies to help companies go green. To do this, a sustainable planning consultant might help a company choose an alternate form of energy, like solar panels, or start an initiative to reduce the company's carbon footprint by 25 percent in five years.

A sustainable planning consultant will develop sustainability policies to improve a company’s resource use but also increase its savings and performance. This could include recommendations to adjust office heating practices or equipment usage, as well as simplifying the supply chain to minimize fossil fuel use, for example.

In some cases, a company will hire its own sustainable planning consultant, although some consultants freelance as part of a consulting firm or offer their own services. Major sustainable planning consulting firms include Booz Allen Hamilton, PFC Energy, Environ, and the United Nations Environment Programme.

A typical day could involve meeting with clients and supervisors on- and off-site to evaluate sustainable development parameters and generating and implementing strategies, which requires a consultant to do his or her own computer research beforehand. Work hours vary but usually hover around 40 to 45 hours per week.

The Green Careers Guide reported that a sustainable planning consultants yearly salary could range from $50,000 - $60,000. With companies seeking to both cut costs and earn the “eco-friendly” label, sustainable consulting is a budding field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the technical consulting field to grow by78 percent between 2006 and 2016, much faster than the 11 percent growth expected for all other industries.

There's no single educational requirement for a sustainable consulting career, but a business, planning, development, or environmental background is typically a must. Some companies might require an undergraduate degree in one of these fields. For those who have this foundation and want specifically to develop green consulting skills, Sustainability Consulting offers online training, including a green auditors certification course.

Internships are a valuable way to build experience and boost your resume.  Visit consulting firm websites for internship opportunities. If you don’t find any listings, call or email the hiring manager to inquire.

Environ’s Princeton, New Jersey office is seeking a summer intern who has completed his or her junior year of college. He or she will have a number of responsibilities, among them critically reviewing, abstracting, and summarizing regulatory requirements for all areas of environmental compliance and developing cleanup goals for contaminated sites using federal and state environmental regulations. The ideal candidate will have excellent writing skills; an ability to communicate complex technical issues clearly and concisely to technical and general audiences; strong analytical abilities; and strong computer skills. He or she will also have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant field of study and have a willingness to travel at least 25 percent of the time for some associate positions.   

PM Environmental offers environmental consulting internships in several states across the U.S. Interns assist consultants in day-to-day operations and research, with responsibilities that include making specific recommendations based on analysis and results, and communicating effectively through written reports and oral discussions, among other tasks. Applicants should be pursuing an undergraduate degree in environmental science, geology, or related field, have a strong academic and extracurricular track record, an ability to work independently and as part of a team, excellent writing and communication skills, and proficiency with Microsoft Office and Adobe software.

Not what you’re looking for? New York’s Union College has compiled an impressive list of environmental consulting internship and job links, including links to environmental consulting job databases.

Read More:

Book Roundup Wednesday: Going Green at Work

Sustainable Companies in an Unsustainable Economy

Green Biz

Image by iStockphoto/Jacob Wackerhausen


HS_Melissa_BLOGMelissa Pandika is an editorial intern at Sierra and a graduate journalism student at Stanford University. Her interests include environmental health and justice, urban environmental issues, and conservation biology. She has a soft spot for cetaceans.


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