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Which of these 46 sustainability certifications is right for you?

Here are 46 professional certifications to demonstrate your expertise across 9 subcategories of sustainability.

Stick figure climbing up stacked wooden blocks; upskilling, personal development concept

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Editor’s note: This is part of a series on closing the sustainability skills gap with the resources we have available right now. Read the previous articles in this series, which cover training on climate literacy, scaling corporate climate literacy, corporate sustainability strategy, measuring and managing GHG emissions, climate and net-zero strategy, regenerative agriculture, circular economy, free training and the sustainability certifications available in 2021 and 2023.  

Certifications play a specific role in our professional journeys. They carry more gravitas than general training programs do because they require us to prove our knowledge, usually by passing a rigorous test or completing a significant project, and the well-known certifications are shorthand for a specific set of skills backed by the credibility of the issuing organizations.

I’ve written extensively about sustainability certifications in 2021 and 2023; the certifications landscape has continued to evolve and expand, and pursuing professional certifications remains the preferred way of building and demonstrating sustainability expertise for many job seekers, so it is time to revisit our list. 

In previous years, I’ve discussed how to pick the best certification for your unique situation and I’ve covered the role that certifications should play in your overall skill-building strategy. For this 2024 installation, I simply want to encourage you to become a connoisseur of certification quality. We’re formalizing more tools and frameworks for different solutions areas such as nature-related disclosure and social equity in buildings all the time, and the professional certifications are following quickly after.

The below list includes 46 professional certifications across nine subcategories of sustainability. I’ve done my very best to find and shine a light on reputable, high-quality experiences. But with these, as with any other certification you may come across, I entreat you to do your due diligence. Is the accrediting organization a well-respected professional association or training organization? What frameworks is the certification based on? What specific skills or knowledge will this certification prove you have? How? Asking yourself these questions will help you to separate the wheat from the chaff. 

The focus of this list is on professional certifications for practitioners and does not include certifications for products (such as Forest Stewardship Council or Cradle to Cradle) or for companies (such as B Corp). It also doesn’t include professional training that does not earn a credential (there are over 100 resources for that in the training series mentioned at the top of this article and on the Education page of my website), graduate programs or university-based certificates.

Is the accrediting organization a well-respected professional association or training organization? What frameworks is the certification based on? What specific skills or knowledge will this certification prove you have? How?

As is often the case with these types of lists, I’m sure I've missed some. If your favorite certification isn’t included here, I warmly invite you to join the conversation on LinkedIn to tell me and your fellow readers about it. Thanks in advance for your help with bringing these resources out into the open so that more people can get to work on advancing sustainable business practices.

Core corporate sustainability certifications

These certifications are focused on demonstrating that you have expertise with the foundational components of the work done on most corporate sustainability teams including general strategy, decarbonization, reporting and supply chain.

Sustainability and climate professional certifications

These certifications provide an opportunity to demonstrate you are a sustainability professional capable of performing broader strategy and implementation work across multiple functions, industries and regions. There are additional non-certification-based options listed in this article on sustainability strategy training

Energy and decarbonization certifications

These certifications are related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the energy your organization uses through energy efficiency, renewable energy or offsets. There are additional non-certification based options listed in these articles on measuring and managing GHG emissions and climate and net-zero strategy.  

Sustainability and ESG reporting certifications

These certifications provide an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of one of the leading global reporting and disclosure standards. You may be surprised to see that some household names in reporting have been removed from the list this year. The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Standards, the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) Framework, the International <IR> Framework and the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) Recommendations have all been folded into the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation’s Sustainability Disclosure Standards, IFRS S1 and IFRS S2, officially published in 2023. 

You may also be wondering if there are any certifications coming out related to the new European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS), which took effect Jan. 1. Because the IFRS Sustainability Disclosure Standards and ESRS are still so new, we’ll probably have a bit of a wait before any full-fledged professional certification programs become available for them, but there are some trainings that I’ve included links to below.  

Supply chain and procurement

These certifications allow you to demonstrate that you have the knowledge, tools and strategic approach needed to develop and reach meaningful greenhouse gas reduction goals in partnership with suppliers.

Specialty certifications

These certifications are focused on demonstrating expertise with a specific area within sustainability such as ESG and sustainable finance, governance, risk, circular economy, the built environment, water and hospitality.  

ESG and sustainable finance, governance and risk

These certifications are related in that they’re all within the realm of finance, governance and risk management, but they each cater to distinctly different audiences. Some (CFA, EFFAS) are specifically for financial professionals who want to incorporate ESG criteria into how financial decisions are made, some (GARP, Competent Boards, Corporate Governance Institute) are more focused on the corporate governance and risk management side of things, and still others (CFI, Chartered Banker) combine these objectives.   

Circular economy, product and packaging certifications

These certifications share a common goal: design things (products, packaging or processes) with sustainability in mind. The circular economy involves active work and decision-making at every point along a product’s journey with the goal of keeping materials circulating at their highest value for as long as possible. The life-cycle assessment, product stewardship and biomimicry certifications support better decision-making specifically at the point of design. There are additional non-certification-based options listed in this article on training for circularity

Facility, building and design standard certification

Each of these standards has its own nuanced definition of what makes a building sustainable and approach for how building certification is achieved. A professional certification in any of these standards demonstrates that you understand the certification process and requirements for that particular facility, building or design standard. You can read the 2023 certifications article for more details about the differences between each standard.  

Water management

Effective water management has become a critical issue for many organizations around the globe. These certifications allow you to demonstrate your ability to develop and implement strategies for meaningful water efficiency and stewardship.

Hospitality

These certifications focus on strategies for more sustainable tourism, travel and events. The certificate in sustainable business travel would likely be particularly helpful if your organization is pursuing Scope 3 reductions goals.   

Certifications wanted

As in previous years, I scoured the internet, LinkedIn and my personal networks but wasn’t able to find professional certifications related to popular topics including equity and social justice or human rights in the supply chain. I was hoping to find the human rights equivalent to LEED — does it exist? If so, please let me know. If not, how did you (or do you plan to) get smart on these topics? What frameworks do you rely on to get your work done? 

Please join the conversation on LinkedIn to let me and your fellow readers know what else is out there.

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