The idea of an organization dedicated to the promotion and support of the emerging group of sustainability professionals was first floated at the Zero Waste Alliance. So many other professions have their own professional association. Where was ours?
After speaking with existing organizations that might be a candidate, we determined that we needed to start a professional society from scratch. An initial marketing effort was launched in the second half of 2006 to determine if we were the only ones that thought it was a good idea and discovered that many other people were eager to have such a resource. The biggest needs, according to our market research, included:
- Networking: To be able to find other people who shared your interests or were working on similar projects.
- Sharing Best Practices and Tools: To have a repository for case studies, sample policies and job descriptions, and other resources.
- Professional Development: To have access to conferences and workshops dedicated to sustainability practitioners
By the end of 2006, a core group of committed Zero Waste Alliance associates had come together to seriously look at the feasibility, outline the framework and determine a timeline for launching. This team put in untold hours getting the organization and an initial website up and running. The Zero Waste Alliance, and its parent organization, the International Sustainable Development Foundation, generously incubated ISSP in the first two years offering administrative support and the official structure of an incorporated non-profit organization.
By early 2007, we had an advisory board of respected sustainability professionals from around the world to help vet the design and a couple corporate sponsors underwriting the costs of getting the organization started. Approximately 50 founding members from around the world started populating the site with useful material in 2nd quarter of 2007. In October 2007 we opened the doors for inaugural members for a soft launch.
In 2008, we matured enough as an organization to form our own 501(c)(3) with an international board of directors. We had several hundred members from five continents.
In 2009, we launched the Sustainability Professional Certificate series with workshops from esteemed members of the sustainability community such as Bob Willard, Gwen Hallsmith and Hunter Lovins, Alan AtKisson and many more. We introduced virtual member meetings and cemented our bi-monthly webinar program. We also reached almost 600 members.
As our membership continued to grow with the profession, ISSP continued to improve and increase the offerings including new courses, webinars and special reports. ISSP also launched its new and improved web site that enabled members to form autonomous groups, managed registrations on our site and tracked member activity including courses completed. We published our first significant piece of research - the professional competency study that identifies the core competencies of sustainability professionals.
ISSP offered its first conference in Portland, Oregon to rave reviews of the people who traveled from all over the world to attend. Membership hit the 600 mark.
To meet growing member interest, ISSP began to explore the formation of local chapters. An interest group of over 80 people helped the organization structure a format and agreement for helping members organize in their communities.
A big year for ISSP. Membership approached 700; we held our second conference in Chicago drawing attendance from every inhabited continent; we created the job task analysis for our professional certification process and formally launched local chapters in Toronto, Chicago, Portland and Jakarta.
Third conference in Denver held with a fantastic combination of speakers, participants and new Hall of Fame inductees. Body of Knowledge, which underpins the professional certification process, is finalised. ISSP Board votes to move forward with Professional Certification. S-CORE(TM)(Sustainability--Competency, Opportunity, Reporting & Evaluation) sustainability assessment introduced. Launched local chapter in Colorado.