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12 of the Best Courses to Bolster Your Sustainability Credentials

12 of the Best Courses to Bolster Your Sustainability Credentials


Sustainability is always evolving. As are the expectations of organizations. The only way to stay ahead of the curve is to regularly set aside time for professional development. But with an abundance of courses to pick from, which ones deserve your time? 

As Mahatma Gandhi said: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” 

The success of any career or company depends on a willingness to keep learning.  

Nowhere is that truer than in the field of sustainability and social impact, where what we know is always evolving and where there is always innovation to learn from.  

Add to that the rapidly growing expectations of both policymakers and consumers when it comes to sustainability and it’s easy to see the merit for both companies and individuals in going above and beyond to equip themselves with a credible and relevant certification.  

But these courses can be time-consuming and, in some cases, expensive. So when job seekers ask me ‘do I need a degree or certification?’ my first response is always: if a gap in your knowledge or credentials is holding you back from the role you want, then yes.  

Their next question though is, which one? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of courses and certification schemes out there.   

First things first, decide what topic, issue or skill you want to gain expertise in, be it human rights, renewables, circularity, etc. That will help you narrow down the options. Then decide how much time and money you want to invest. If you can afford to invest a bit, then I’d always recommend opting for a well-known brand, such as Harvard, Stanford or Cambridge. It just looks better on your resume.  

Once you’ve gone through those steps, and are ready to start selecting the best fit for you, here’s my pick of 12 of the best short courses (2 months or less) to pick from:  

For Sustainable Business Strategies and Leadership:

Harvard Business School: Sustainable Business Strategy: Lasting three weeks, with 20-25 hours of materials to work through, this Harvard short course covers the business models and structures that can most effectively drive change. Participants will gain a certificate from Harvard Business School.  

The University of Cambridge: High Impact Leadership: An online course, lasting 8-10 weeks, this short course is aimed at aspiring business leaders that want to make a meaningful change, with lessons in both strategy and communication. Participants receive certification from the University of Cambridge.  

For the Basics on Climate Change:

SDG Academy: The science and global impact of climate change: A free online course designed and delivered by the UN that covers the science behind global warming and its escalating impact. Self-paced, with around 50 hours of work, spread across eight modules.  

The Centre for Environment and Development Studies: Climate Change Leadership: A free MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) lasting five weeks, with four hours of study per week. Modules include the challenges of sustainable leadership and new models of innovation when it comes to tackling climate change.  

For an Understanding of Social Impact and CSR:

Sustainability Academy: Social entrepreneurship: Around 25 hours of work, spanning five modules, plus an end of course assignment (2 hours), this online course introduces professionals to the various elements of CSR, with a particular focus on how an organization can work toward B Corp certification.  

Governance & Accountability Institute: Certification on corporate responsibility: With on-demand enrolment, this online course targeted at sustainability managers and EHS professionals, has a syllabus broad in scope but all focused on how firms can leverage CSR programs to improve their social impact and their economic performance.   

University of Oxford: Integrating sustainability: A series of two-day, full-time short courses aimed at organizations looking to bolster sustainable management practises. Topics include how to create corporate sustainability frameworks, and how to both measure and report on progress within an organization.  

For Those Looking to Track Internal Progress:

GRI Standards Certified Training Course: With only 16 hours, this course lets participants walk away with a certified understanding of how to use the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards to track and report on progress in their organization.  

The British Standards Institution: Becoming an internal auditor: For those tasked with environmental management in their organization this two-day BSI course covers environmental protection, resource conservation, and improved energy efficiency. Participants also gain 16 CPD points.  

SDG Academy: How to achieve the SDGs: A self-paced free online course that covers everything you need to know about the SDGs and how your organization can contribute toward achieving them, from their history, current global implementation, and the major obstacles we face.  

For Those Looking to Track Internal Progress

Stanford University: Strategies for Sustainability: Available as a self-paced online course, this program doesn’t require any prior experience or credentials to enroll. It covers the financial impact of sustainable strategies in business, decision-making frameworks and tools, and how to stimulate positive change in your own organization.    

Ellen Macarthur Foundation: From Linear to Circular: A free,10-week online course open to anyone looking to act as a pioneer within their organization and champion the merits of a circular economy. Broad in scope, with topics including circular design, business models, plastics, fashion, cities, and food.  

Shannon Houde is a guest blogger for Net Impact and an ICF-certified career and executive coach who founded, Walk of Life Coaching, the first international career coaching and professional development advisory business focused solely on the social impact, environmental, CSR, and sustainable business fields.