A sustainability office is an agency seeking to promote practices that help conserve land and other natural resources for continued long-term use. Different individual offices may each promote different methods, or have different strategies for meeting goals, depending upon the type of land or resources they work with most. Funding for the office may either come from a company or government, depending on the circumstances.
Though the process of conservation and its importance has been stressed for many decades, the creation of formal sustainability offices is a relatively recent phenomenon, especially in the private sector. As companies not only struggle with limited resources, but also with a public image that many times is negative in terms of the environment, establishing a sustainability office can help to improve both areas. At the same time, the office must understand that the overall goal of the company is to continue to make money. Therefore, any solutions offered must not only be beneficial to the environment, but practical to the company from a financial perspective.
The need to promote sustainability yet remain profitable can sometimes lead to a delicate balancing act. A sustainability office must be able to promote conservation practices while at the same time not costing the company too much money. These factors are not always at odds, however. As the company improves its efficiency, it also leads to higher rates of sustainable practices. For example, if a transportation can plan its delivery routes more efficiently, it lead to reduced fuel costs, thus promoting sustainability.
The particular focus of sustainability offices varies based on the individual company or government. In some cases, the goal is to finding ways of recycling used products, or perhaps finding a more efficient ways of using materials that are available. Energy companies may have sustainability offices that seek to find ways of supplementing the use of fossil fuels with renewable resources. In a government setting, the sustainability office is often responsible for finding ways to promote responsible growth, and may be linked to another agency such as planning or zoning.
A sustainability office is most commonly overseen by the chief sustainability officer. The goal of this officer is to direct policy and often to recommend policies to a larger organization for possible consideration and adoption. This person will also be responsible for a number of other administrative duties, such as budgeting, personnel, and perhaps even marketing. Those under the director of the office may be called sustainability officers.