Sustainability careers can cover a wide range of job titles, responsibilities and goals. One such sustainability path falls in line with more traditional business practices and professions: director of business development. This role will involve developing and exercising skills much like those of a sales agent, as well as forming and maintaining good relationships with colleagues. Taking on a job like this will help individuals build and retain essential business skills that can serve them well in a number of different corporate settings later on in their careers, while also allowing them to contribute to the further implementation of green strategies.
Sustainability directors cultivate an organization’s conservation efforts, growing initiatives and selling the products and services to customers. Directors of business development with a focus on sustainability are the advocates for these green programs, vocalizing the pros of the business and drawing attention—and clients—to the company.
A typical day in the life of a director of business development
Directors of business development who focus on sustainability carry a great responsibility—namely, balancing their firms' growth and revenue creation priorities with the desire to operate according to sustainable and green principles. How they go about doing this depends on the organization, because each business has different goals. These sustainability professionals will work to determine the best ways for their company to address sustainability.
In some cases, a director of business development will focus on the design, production and sales of eco-friendly products. This includes everything from non-polluting cleaning sprays to appliances or electronics that meet the Energy Star criteria for efficient operation. Other directors of business development won't handle sales but will instead seek out and create partnerships with other companies or nonprofit organizations that help environmental advocacy efforts even if the business itself doesn't craft specific sustainable products or services. Either way, these professionals help ensure that conservation-related goals don't negatively affect the corporate bottom line.
A closer look at the professional landscape for a director of business development
Businesses require departmental cooperation to successfully operate, and this is especially important for directors of business development who focus on sustainability. Given the priorities that they need to balance, directors will work closely alongside other personnel who handle sustainable operations.
For example, sustainability planners—who initially devise strategies intended to address green issues, as noted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—might run new proposals by business development personnel before presenting to a chief sustainability officer or another senior executive. Development directors could point out logistical or pragmatic concerns that planners may initially overlook. Professionals from these two groups can then determine ways to balance each set of priorities and revise the plan to be more attractive to executives or board members. Development directors may also communicate regularly with resources specialists handling specific aspects of corporate sustainable operations to get a closer look at what is or isn't working and identify appropriate responses.
Data for this profession varies regarding salary and labor market outlook. PayScale lists directors of business development with a $103,559 median wage, but factors like location and industry will affect specific numbers. As for professional outlook, the BLS's prediction of 11 percent growth between 2016 and 2026 for environmental specialist positions is most applicable to the sustainable business development role.
Becoming a director of business development
Many professionals may secure an entry-level or mid-level role in either corporate sustainability or business development with a relevant bachelor's degree and professional experience. However, due to the specialized nature of the sustainable business development director role, a master's degree directly related to high-level sustainability principles may be more advantageous.
Hands-on experience can also be beneficial for candidates for this role. Many sustainability jobs are new, and not all companies have dedicated sustainability departments. As a result, they may not have a history of recruiting for sustainability business development directors. It may be helpful to have sustainability experience in lower-level roles or a track record of working on or leading sustainability initiatives in other businesses to attract the attention of potential employers.
Learn more about your potential career as a director of sustainability business development
Interested professionals may want to work toward a director of business development title while also broadening their knowledge with the online Master of Sustainability Leadership program from Arizona State University. As home to the first School of Sustainability in the U.S., ASU offers the rich curriculum, experienced faculty and breadth of online resources that can allow students the freedom to further their education on their own schedule.
ASU Online – Master of Sustainability Leadership
PayScale – Business Development Director Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Training and Development Managers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Environmental Scientists and Specialists
Harvard Business Review – How companies can champion sustainable development
O*Net OnLine – Sustainability Specialists