For future CSOs, passion and social skills are the missing link

For would-be sustainability professionals, a resume boasting impressive degrees is certainly important, and will help get a foot in the door. But what really counts on the job are interpersonal skills and a passion for sustainability, attributes that are often overlooked by job seekers, say experts.

According to a recent Vox Global/Weinreb Group report, 78 percent of sustainability leaders surveyed said they had assumed subject matter expertise would be the most important factor in predicting success. Once on the job, however, 100 percent of respondents said interpersonal skills turned out to be the most critical element to achieving their sustainability goals.

Ellen Weinreb, founder of the Weinreb Group, a sustainability recruiting firm, said interpersonal skills are crucial in overcoming a sustainability professional’s biggest challenge: moving things forward in a corporate culture that is often entrenched in the ways of the past.

“Sustainability professionals are like pioneers, forging new frontiers,” said Weinreb, who is also a columnist for GreenBiz. “Their job is to convince people who are used to doing things the traditional way to look at things differently.”

Changing mindsets is not an easy task. Sustainability professionals therefore need to act like corporate chameleons, said Weinreb, and learn to speak the language of whomever it is they are dealing with. They also need to work to educate and engage employees, and bring people from different departments together who normally wouldn’t do so.

Next page: Essential skills for the field