Hiring a sustainability manager
What to look for in a sustainability manager or officer
The sustainability manager role is a relatively new one in tourism and hospitality.
The good news is that your first sustainability hire doesn’t need to be highly qualified. A genuine interest in your mission and a willingness to learn and grow are excellent starting points. From there, you can shape the role into something that supports your sustainability goals and overall business operations.
What is a sustainability manager or officer?
A sustainability manager is tasked with ensuring that a business’s operations and activities are conducted in a sustainable, responsible manner, with a firm focus on minimising a business’ negative impacts on the environment and local communities.
Tasks will cover key business goals such as reducing carbon emissions, energy and waste – but should also extend to more holistic business operations to build resilience, encouraging growth and safeguard and regenerate natural resources and biodiversity for future generations.
In tourism and hospitality, sustainability champions are becoming an increasingly important role and covers things like recycling wastewater, reducing food wastage, supporting local community upliftment projects, preserving cultural heritage and interrogating your supply chain to try keep things local, seasonal and environmentally friendly.
The benefits of hiring a champion for sustainability
Collating sustainability data across one’s entire business is a daunting task with many moving data points and goalposts. Readings could be coming in from many different staff members and departments, from HR to accounts and even your safari guides and housekeeping team. So having a central Sustainability Officer or Champion to manage the collation of this data and report on progress towards sustainability goals can be key. Especially if you are wanting to be transparent with your tour operators, guests and certification bodies about your impact and carbon footprint per tourist bed night.
Backing your sustainability claims with real data also gives credibility in an industry plagued by greenwashing – and having a dedicated sustainability team member on staff also shows a concerted commitment towards making a difference in the climate emergency.
4 things to consider when hiring your first sustainability
When looking for a sustainability manager, keep the following in mind:
A personal interest in sustainability
Unless you’re a listed company with strict reporting requirements, your first sustainability hire doesn’t need to be a “unicorn” with decades of experience. Someone with the right personality and a background or interest in sustainability can learn on the job and be guided by solutions, like Weeva, on the next step to take.
Gravitas to influence change
Sustainability managers are change agents and project leaders. But to drive change, they need a certain level of seniority and influence in the business to call out leaders for unsustainable practices, change how things have always been done and motivate for investments that will improve the business’s green credentials.
Strong communication skills
Your sustainability manager must be comfortable engaging with and training people from every department. They should also be comfortable chatting with the community and guests about your sustainability projects to drum up support and awareness of your impact.
The ability to understand and communicate data insights
Sustainability management is all about the data. Where are you now? Where do you need to be? What are you doing well? What could you do better? They don’t need to be data scientists but having some level of data literacy will help your sustainability manager to focus on the right projects and allocate the right resources. They should also be comfortable with producing reports (which Weeva does automatically for you) and reporting back to decision-makers on progress toward your sustainability goals.
Whether you’re appointing someone internally or hiring externally, be sure to create a formal description of the sustainability role, with a job hierarchy, reporting structure and key responsibilities. This creates continuity and keeps everyone aligned with your vision.
Sample of a job description for a tourism sustainability manager
As a sustainability manager working in the travel and tourism industry, you will be responsible for ensuring we develop, manage and continuously improve all operations across our business including the coordination, communication and execution of our sustainability and environmental strategies to drive positive impact on people and planet in the areas where we operate our hotels, resorts and lodges.
The successful applicant should demonstrate:
- A post-graduate diploma in a sustainability-related field or a degree in environmental science or similar would be favoured
- Experience in ecological, environmental, and social issues linked to sustainability
- A passion or personal interest in responsible tourism, the climate emergency – and a willingness and gravitas to drive positive impact and change, leading by example
- Minimum of +2 years’ experience in corporate sustainability programmes and/or project management including leading small teams and engaging with senior stakeholders and suppliers
- Comfortable with engaging with technology with advanced computer skills
- Analytical skills with a flair for reporting on data insights, with close attention to detail
- Strong interpersonal and communication skills
Tools to support a sustainability manager
Once you have your sustainability manager onboarded, it is important to have the right tools in place to make their job of data collection and collation easier. This is where Weeva can help.
Reports showing progress towards sustainability goals can be easily pulled from one easy dashboard, collating data that is uploaded by various members of the team from maintenance to housekeeping to HR.
Weeva allows you to generate reports, which will help you apply for certification (should you wish to go this route).
Dr. Andrea Ferry
Dr. Andrea Ferry is a Chartered Accountant with an Honours degree in Sustainable Planning, Development and Management (cum laude) from the Sustainability Institute of the University of Stellenbosch and Doctorate of Philosophy (in Business Administration) from the University of Cape Town.
Andrea has been a Sustainability Consultant to some of Africa’s leading eco-tourism operations including Singita. She is a SETA-accredited carbon footprint analyst. Andrea has poured her wealth of sustainability knowledge, passion and experience into Weeva.