Sustainability Managers: The Job Roles and Competencies of Building Sustainable Cities and Communities

Adriane MacDonald, Amelia Clarke, Eduardo Ordonez-Ponce, Ziqi Chai, Jordan Andreasen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Sustainable development has been a local public policy concern for nearly three decades. Accordingly, the demand for hiring sustainability professionals is increasing within local governments. However, the job of a municipal sustainability manager is notably understudied as extant literature provides little clarity on who fills these positions, what their job entails, and how they perform their job. This article seeks to address these important research questions by examining the qualifications (who), job responsibilities and work activities (what), as well as the sustainability management competencies that experienced professionals identify as most valuable for performing their sustainability manager job (how). Twenty-six sustainability professionals employed by twenty-five different municipalities across Canada were interviewed. Our results contribute to the public administration literature by providing foundational information on an understudied job that is increasingly important to public performance. Moreover, our findings contribute to the public performance and sustainability management literatures by surfacing eleven competencies linked to sustainability management. Ultimately, this article presents a detailed assessment of the specific job of a municipal sustainability manager from the perspective of incumbents who have demonstrated job performance; thus contributing salient information for continued progress toward achieving more sustainable cities and communities (Sustainable Development Goal #11).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1413-1444
Number of pages32
JournalPublic Performance and Management Review
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Local government
  • sustainability competencies
  • sustainability management
  • sustainability professionals
  • sustainable development goals


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