ISSP's Sustainability Certification Effort

Thu, 2015-01-08 10:27

Update (10/4/16): ISSP Exam Prep is now available! Click here to get started.

At its November 2014 annual meeting, the board of directors for the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) unanimously voted to move forward in creating a Sustainability Professional Certification Program in order to:

  • provide cohesion and definition to the emerging profession of sustainability
  • provide credibility for employers and assurance of a standard level of competency of the sustainability professional
  • provide practitioners in the field evidence of competency, furthering their credibility, influence, and career advancement opportunities

ISSP plans to launch a Beta version of its sustainability certification program in March 2015, with a version 1.0 to launch in November 2015.

ISSP Sustainability Certification Timeline

We helped announce this exciting news in our post Sustainability Certification is on the Horizon. There we talked about how ISSP has been collecting feedback and guidance from notable contributors, such as Elisa Khan, who is the director of credentialing at GBCI. Two months later, we now have more details about the proposed sustainability certifications from ISSP. You'll see that the structure is somewhat similar to the LEED credentialing process, though there are some differences. But first, let's look back and see how we got to this point.


Since ISSP was formed in 2007, the field of sustainability has attracted thousands of people from a variety of backgrounds who are doing work in this field and claim the title “sustainability professional.” While the field has been enriched and informed by the diversity of expertise these people bring, it has also created inconsistency in practice and definition. ISSP believes that in order for the field and its professionals to be taken seriously and be granted due credibility, there needs to be some definition and standardization of the competencies employers and seekers of consultants can come to expect.

Like many others, we at Everblue whole-heartedly agree with ISSP's sentiments and look forward to the launch of the sustainability certification program. In fact, in spring of 2014, ISSP surveyed over 800 sustainability professionals, and the results were overwhelmingly in favor of creating a certification.

Question: If a professional certification was available, would you try to get certified?
Yes! No! Unsure Sample Size
70% 28% 2% 843


There will be two levels of certification available to sustainability practitioners:

  • ISSP Sustainability Associate (ISSP SA): Individuals who are new to the field of sustainability but have sufficient education and training to pass a test on basic knowledge and understanding of key sustainability concepts.
  • ISSP Certified Sustainability Professional (ISSP CSP): Experienced sustainability practitioners who demonstrate a combination of sustainability-related work experience and formal education. The certification for the ISSP CSP will be awarded to those who pass a more comprehensive test based on ISSP's job task analysis.

Maintaining the certification at either level will require ongoing professional development activities, including a combination of related work experience, training, ISSP national conference attendance, publication, association involvement, and ISSP membership.

Eligibility Requirements and Process

For the ISSP Sustainability Associate credential, individuals must complete the following steps:

  1. Complete an application form 
  2. Sign the Code of Ethics Declaration
  3. Pass the certification exam 


For the ISSP Certified Sustainability Professional credential, individuals must complete these requirements:

  1. Pass the ISSP-SA exam
  2. Complete an application form
  3. Submit three professional references who can verify work experience
  4. Sign the Code of Ethics Declaration
  5. Pass the ISSP-CSP certification exam

The application for Sustainability Professional Certification will open in late February 2015, after ISSP has developed the test and application process.

How You Can Get Involved Now

There are four ways in which you can show your support for the ISSP Sustainability Certification Program:

Stay tuned for more updates about ISSP Professional Sustainability Certification Program. We're thrilled to see these certifications coming to fruition. So far I've been very impressed with how ISSP is managing this initiative, and I suspect that this endeavor will be massively successful. Similar to ISSP's survey results, our students have also provided feedback that a standardized sustainability certification would be valuable. We're excited to be following this news right from the very start, and we'll keep you all updated as we hear more information!

By Lesley Cowie