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Q&A Series with Maureen Hart, Executive Director of ISSP

This month we talk with Maureen Hart, Executive Director of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP), an Organizational Affiliate of STAR Communities. Right now, ISSP is offering a special membership discount of just $100 annually on a one-year membership for STAR Communities members. Learn more about our STAR Affiliates program here.


What is the International Society of Sustainability Professionals?

ISSP is the world’s leading professional association of sustainability professionals. Our mission is to make sustainability standard practice through empowering professionals to advance sustainability in organizations and communities around the globe. ISSP improves the skills of sustainability practitioners through education, knowledge sharing, networking, research, and professional credentials.

How does ISSP’s mission align with STAR Communities’ mission?

ISSP’s mission aligns directly with the STAR Communities’ mission to evaluate, improve, and certify sustainable communities since ISSP is working to improve the knowledge, skills, and abilities of all sustainability professionals, many of whom are working to improve the sustainable practices of communities. There is also significant overlap between the two organizations’ frameworks for defining critical sustainability issues.  For example, both the ISSP Sustainability Body of Knowledge and the STAR Community Rating System include stakeholder engagement and sustainability strategy implementation and management as important competencies.

How are ISSP and STAR Communities connected?

There are a number of great connections between ISSP and STAR. For example, I was personally involved in the development of the STAR Community Rating System at the very beginning because of my expertise in sustainability indicators and metrics. For several years I served on STAR Communities’ Equity & Empowerment Technical Advisory Group (TAG). Catherine Hurley, who is an ISSP Certified Sustainability Professional (ISSP-CSP) and a member of ISSP’s Board of Directors, leads the City of Evanston’s STAR Community process as the City of Evanston’s Sustainability Manager. In addition, many of the communities that STAR Communities works with employ sustainability professionals who are members of ISSP.

STAR Communities itself is an inaugural Organizational Member of ISSP, which provides ISSP membership benefits to the sustainability professionals on the STAR staff, and gives STAR Communities a great way to bring its services and knowledge to ISSP members. For example, we are planning a webinar for ISSP members on Version 2.0 of the STAR Community Rating System. Similarly, ISSP is a STAR Organizational Affiliate.

What are some of the ISSP educational opportunities that would be of interest to STAR Communities members?

ISSP has an array of offerings, from self-study courses, to webinars to month-long online instructor-led courses that are useful for all sustainability professionals, regardless of industry. ISSP’s professional development offerings are available to anyone, regardless of whether or not they are an ISSP member, although members receive significant discounts. And these offerings reflect the ISSP focus on a comprehensive view of sustainability, not just on the environment. In many cases, they focus on key skills for the individuals, not just on implementation topics like waste management and transportation strategies.

For example, some recent and upcoming webinars (free to ISSP members) include: The Impact of Water Scarcity on Businesses, Using Storytelling to Engage Stakeholders, Transformational Leadership for Driving Sustainability, and Effective Use of Eco-labels to Improve Supply Chain Impacts. These are great sources of ideas for how municipalities can advance sustainability, in some cases based on improving skill sets for the sustainability professionals themselves and in other cases based on ideas for implementing sustainability from the private sector. ISSP members can also access recordings of prior webinars.

ISSP also has a number of courses that would be of interest, not only to a community’s sustainability professional but also to staff in areas beyond the current “sustainability manager” role who are interested in becoming sustainability practitioners, such as Leadership Skills for Change Agents and Sustaining Sustainability. ISSP continues to be one of the only places to find foundational sustainability information and information about key skills for individual sustainability professionals.

Finally, ISSP’s Sustainability Professional Certification, a professional credential for individuals working on sustainability, is a great way for professionals working with STAR Communities to show their competency, increase their credibility, and improve their career advancement opportunities. In addition to Catherine Hurley, whom I already mentioned is an ISSP Certified Sustainability Professional (ISSP-CSP), there are a number of sustainability professionals in communities where STAR has worked who have earned the ISSP Sustainability Associate (ISSP-SA) and Certified Sustainability Professional (ISSP-CSP) credentials, including Victoria, BC; Bloomington, IN; Avondale, AZ; Fort Collins, CO; New York, NY; and Springfield, MO.

Tell us more about the local ISSP chapters that have been formed in various locations.

ISSP members are forming chapters across the globe in order to meet and network with other sustainability professionals, either face-to-face in local, place-based chapters or virtually in ‘affinity group’ chapters to talk about specific areas of interest. For example, the Colorado ISSP Chapter is holding a Sustainability Retreat this month to allow their members a chance to learn and recharge and renew their sustainability passion. STAR Communities members are encouraged to check out the list of ISSP Chapters here and to reach out to chapter contacts to get involved. Also, for ISSP members, there is a Member Search function that allows you to connect with other sustainability professionals in your region. This is a great way to find collaborators in different sectors and can facilitate networking to support job changes or just broad career research.

What does the future entail for ISSP in one year? Five years?

Our focus in the next year will be to firmly establish ISSP Sustainability Professional Certifications as internationally recognized standards for the sustainability competencies employers and seekers of consultants can come to expect.  In five years, we hope to be well on our way toward helping to make sustainability standard practice around the world.

Anything else you would like to tell us?

Yes, in appreciation for all the great work that STAR Communities is doing, we are offering a special membership discount on a one-year membership for STAR Communities members of just $100 annually. We look forward to being a high value resource for sustainability training, networking, and information to municipalities everywhere.

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