March 2013 Expert: Marsha Willard | International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP)

Marsha Willard

Marsha Willard is founder and Executive Director for the International Society of Sustainability Professionals. She is also co-founder and CEO of AXIS Performance Advisors, Inc. a Northwest based consulting firm specializing in helping organizations implement sustainable business practices. She has worked with organizations in both the public and private sector providing training, consulting, facilitation and executive coaching services. Some of her clients include Monsanto, Bonneville Power Administration, Cascade Corporation, City of Portland, AAA of N. California, Oregon Department of Human Services, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Washington Department of Ecology, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Wacker Siltronic, Conway Transportation, GreenBlue and the Zero Waste Alliance. Marsha is also adjunct faculty for several colleges and universities. She teaches classes in sustainability for the University of Oregon, Bainbridge Graduate Institute and the Presidio Graduate School. In addition she is an associate of the Zero Waste Alliance and a coach and presenter for the Natural Step Network.


[box type=”shadow” align=”alignleft” ]Question 1:  With more and more organizations creating sustainability positions and departments, it seems like now may be a good time to start thinking about establishing more rigorous and/or standardized measures of knowledge and skills for sustainability professionals. What efforts are underway to explore the topic of certification of sustainability professionals? [/box]

We at ISSP have recognized this trend and have begun the process of creating a certification for our profession. We are currently working with a multi-stakeholder group to create the “body of knowledge” that will form the basis of a certification scheme. The body of knowledge will detail the skills, knowledge and attributes a sustainability practitioner should be able to demonstrate. We hope to have that document published by mid summer of 2013. From there we will create the actual scheme that will assess and “certify” qualifying professionals. At this point it is undecided whether that will involve a written test, interviews, work experience, a portfolio or some combination. For more information about the effort and up to the minute status, visit the ISSP web site:

[box type=”shadow” align=”alignleft” ]Question 2:  The terminology that is used to talk about sustainability is loose and inconsistent. It seems like a wall of babble when it comes to definitions and terms that are used to described the profession. What can be done to bring some consistency to the language of sustainability? [/box]

The process of implementing sustainability is daunting enough without the confusion created by inconsistent use and understanding of the language associated with it. ISSP hopes to use its platform as THE professional association for the field to engage our members in the creation of a coherent “lexicon” of terms. We hope that this will become the “go to” source for clarity and consistency and enable professionals to get on with the real work of making sustainability standard practice everywhere. For a look at the progress we’ve made to date on this topic, and to join in on the Lexicon conversation, visit

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