Coming Together to Tackle the Biggest Challenges Facing Our Professions

Given the symbiotic relationship between the climate change and sustainability professions, ACCO and ISSP face many of the same everyday trials and tribulations. 

We are at critical points in both the global climate crisis and the process of mainstreaming sustainability.  Our efforts are complicated by a dynamically changing environment, increasing number (and severity) of natural disasters, policy inaction and maladaptations, a workforce that is that is not sufficiently equipped or empowered to meet these challenges.  

So, how do we better prepare for these emerging and evolving realities while establishing best practices, standards and codes across all professional niches?  And how can we leverage this first Global Congress to address these challenges?

1. Defining a Climate Change or Sustainability Professional

Insights from ACCO: Organizations across sectors have tasked individuals with driving and implementing climate change initiatives for more than a decade. Despite the increasing human resources being devoted to climate action plans, greenhouse gas reduction efforts, resilience initiatives and climate adaptation, many professionals in those roles do not self identify as members of a formal and credentialed occupation. What’s more, this is further complicated by a lack of recognition by HR organizations and executive suites to emphasize the necessity of a professional with specialized climate change training. While ACCO has already brought hundreds of professionals together to develop and adopt the Core Competencies for Climate Change Officers and Professionals, a number of challenges to adoption include:

  • Getting professionals to see themselves as a member of the occupation of climate change leadership and understanding what that means for their career progression, professional development, etc.

  • Getting HR organizations to similarly recognize these competencies and to begin incorporating appropriate requirements and preferences in job descriptions (including prioritizing credentialed professionals)

  • Getting c-suite executives to recognize that climate change leadership is an executive function that needs to be placed appropriately in the leadership suite and properly resourced for success

Insights from ISSP:  In response to how interconnected the world has become, ISSP launched the world’s first globally recognized certification program for sustainability professionals in 2017. Two post-nominal credentials (ISSP-SA & ISSP-CSP) were developed through global collaboration by sustainability practitioners, for sustainability practitioners. Designed with rigorous international requirements in mind, the ISSP program provides third-party verification of competency in the profession. 

2. Establishing Global Standards and Best Practices

Insights from ACCO: If the implications of climate change manifest themselves differently from one region or sector to the next, how de we establish best practices and standards that are applicable across the board? Should professionals be leveraging methodologies that are flexible enough to account for geographic, sectoral and other variance?  

Insights from ISSP: ISSP believes that partnering across borders and around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is the key leverage point for systemic change. Just last month, ISSP unveiled an updated logo featuring the SDG’s branding to more publicly demonstrate ISSP’s support of the framework.

3. Effectively Communicating Across Regions, Sectors & Occupations

Insights from ACCO: The impacts of climate change on an organization or community can vary so significantly, communication efforts can be particularly challenging. How can professionals best communicate with their leadership and stakeholders?  What tools and resources do they need to inform communications that resonate based upon the values and priorities of their stakeholders? What responsibilities do professionals have in addressing environmental justice, social good and public awareness in the context of climate change? These are critically important areas for our members to address as agents of change and as leaders.

Insights from ISSP: With members hailing from all six of the inhabited continents, ISSP has several audiences with whom it must share its message. Moreover, as the workplace moves away from siloed corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments, more folks are identifying as sustainability professionals. ISSP recognizes anyone who spends at least 25 percent of their time helping make the world more regenerative as a sustainability professional, regardless of the type of business they work for or the title they hold. A quarter of one's working capacity isn't much, which effectively means that a large percentage of the global labor pool is engaged in creating values-driven products and services! The question remains--what narratives should we be sharing to inspire more professions to operate like ours?

4. Identifying And Delivering Core Needs 

Insights from ISSP/ACCO: Another challenge ISSP & ACCO face nearly every day is identifying and delivering the core needs that members and the community expect from the organization. Above all, members expect access to a community of peers, knowledge and learning resources, tools that facilitate their work, independent validation of their capabilities and work product, and professional development opportunities. 

ISSP & ACCO must successfully provide all of these things to members of our respective organizations while responding to an evolving marketplace and growing our communities of practice.

5. Rising Above The Noise (Prioritizing Climate Change & Sustainability vs. Other Emergent Issues)

Insights from ACCO: Organizations across sectors are facing an unprecedented number of transformational issues such as security conditions, cybersecurity threats, economic challenges and automation.  In an environment where politics, marketplace, technology and communication media and technology are dynamically changing, how do we get climate change addresses consistently as a top-tier priority?  Should climate action be woven in with other imperatives? Do leaders have a clear understanding of the costs of inaction or the opportunities being missed? As a community of practice, we’ll have to figure out how to rise above the noise to get climate change prioritized.

Insights from ISSP: With many folks taking the scare-tactic approach to messaging, consumers have become numb in so many ways. Greenwashing is also at historic levels and an on-going concern as more businesses and NGOs attempt to capitalize on the growing demand for products that are environmentally and socially responsible. So we are left wondering what level of urgency we should convey around our work. How does ISSP strike the right chord between motivating its constituents to engage without disenfranchising them? 

6. Sustaining Morale & Constructive Action in the Face of a Seemingly Impossible Mission

Insights from ACCO/ISSP: The news cycle is dominated by a series of what can only be construed as stressful or depressing stories.  Seemingly on a daily basis, a report emerges that paints a dire picture. Already, climate change and sustainability professionals face a daunting task as the agents of change trying to drive the unprecedented transformation required in their organizations and communities.  How do we sustain morale, drive constructive action and build a strong sense of a successful path forward? What are the best ways to convince leaders and stakeholders that this is not only imperative, but also an opportunity?


ACCO and ISSP face both similar challenges and very different sets of challenges in our communities of practice. In understanding each others’ challenges, we can better work together within our communities - and within each other’s communities - to overcome these struggles and effectively communicate to a wider audience.

Join us this December to help us examine and find solutions to these challenges and so many more. We need your help, now more than ever.